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Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2006

Imperial imposters get 26 months

Fake wedding scam nets only 12 million yen, prison time


Staff writer

The Tokyo District Court on Monday sentenced a man and a woman to 26 months in prison for staging a fraudulent wedding reception in which they pretended to be members of the Imperial family and bilked guests out of 12 million yen in cash and a painting.

News photo
Yasuyuki Kitano KYODO PHOTOS

Yasuyuki Kitano, 44, and Harumi Sakamoto, 47, staged the sham wedding in April 2003 by pretending to be members of the Arisugawa family, part of the Imperial line that can be traced back to 1625 to Prince Yoshihito, the son of Emperor Goyozei.

About 360 people attended the event, and Kitano and Sakamoto were found guilty of taking 2.94 million yen in cash from 61 of the 137 guests who claimed damages.

Presiding Judge Takaaki Oshima condemned the audacious duo for the deception.

"There are no traces of blood relations between Kitano and the Imperial family going back for at least the past three generations," the judge said.

A third man, Shinya Kusunoki, who was 42 at the time of the crime, also was arrested in connection with the sham wedding. He pleaded guilty and was given a suspended 18-month prison term by the Tokyo District Court in November 2004.

According to the prosecutors, Kitano began calling himself Satohito Arisugawa in the mid-1980s and claimed to be a prince of the Arisugawa family. In 2003, however, the Metropolitan Police Department checked with the Imperial Household Agency and confirmed he was not related in any way to the royal family.

It is believed the impostor obtained information on the Arisugawa line from a public library in Kyoto Prefecture.

News photo
Harumi Sakamoto

Kitano and Sakamoto first met in October 2002 and hatched the plan for the bogus wedding shortly after.

With help from Kusunoki, the couple sent out more than 2,000 invitations for the wedding that were titled Prince Arisugawa's Celebration Dinner Banquet.

The bogus wedding attracted guests including celebrities, a former member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and members of a rightwing group in Tokyo.

According to the ruling, Kitano appeared at the ceremony formally dressed as an army general, complete with white gloves and medals on his chest. Sakamoto, the impostor bride, donned a traditional 12-layer kimono at one point.

The two also charged their guests 10,000 yen to have memorial photos taken with the couple. When the photo sessions did not prove popular, Sakamoto asked for an announcement to be made notifying guests about the service.

In an absurd twist, however, it appears the couple failed to do their homework on the financing for the wedding: Even though they bilked the guests out of more than 12 million yen in cash, the cost of the ceremony is believed to have exceeded their take.

Both Kitano and Sakamoto "still owe a part of the fees for the ceremony," according to the ruling.

Although Kitano admitted early in the investigation to sending out the invitations, he denied during the trial that he misrepresented himself and said he in fact never stated to anyone publicly that he was as a member of the royal family.

Sakamoto also denied her part in the bogus ceremony, saying she merely had a wedding party and invited her friends.

"The two have been refusing to face up their crime and are escaping from reality," the judge said in his ruling.

Prosecutors had sought a three-year prison term for the couple, condemning the caper as a "crime that took advantage of the reverence toward the Imperial family."

The defendants' lawyers maintained that Sakamoto and Kitano were innocent, stating that Kitano is actually related to the Imperial family and thus no fraud was committed.



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The Japan Times

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