Hitomi Tsuyuki Gets 18 Years for $2.8 Million Scam; He'd Known Some Victims Since He Was a Child

Hitomi Tsuyuki, who pleaded guilty last month to 29 felony counts related to his scamming 33 clients--many of them parishoners at his father's church--out of about $2.8 million, has been sentenced to 18 years in state prison.

Before that maximum-allowed sentence was imposed, the judge had read statements from several of those Tsuyuki burned.

Some victims had known him since he was a child.

"I first met Hitomi Tsuyuki and his family sometime in the late 1950s," wrote a female in a statement related to the Weekly via the Orange County District Attorney's office. "We all used to play afterschool at the family church. In July of 2001, he called me and said that he had an investment opportunity that he was offering to only his close friends and family members.

"I discussed this investment opportunity with my father and we both agreed to invest $20,000 each. I then wrote out two checks for $20,000 each. One check was for me and the other for my father. The $20,000 from my father was the redress money that was granted to him years after he was interned during WWII.

"I eventually entrusted Hitomi with much of the money I had. This was the money I needed for my family's livelihood. Unfortunately, this trust and faith I had in Hitomi, blinded me to the fact that he had already set up the ground work to steal most of my life savings.

"In my culture, when shame is brought to a family, the one causing it should take responsibility for it in some way. As I stand here and I reflect over the past decade of fraud, I see no remorse or shame in him. He should not be free to be able to build up people's trust, and then prey upon that very trust and steal their life savings. No one should have to go through what he put me through. I spent many stress-filled days and sleepless nights, blaming myself for allowing him to steal from me.  Please do not let him have that opportunity to victimize another."

Another female victim, who wrote that she lost one-third of her retirement," found Tsuyuki's treatment of long-time clients "appalling."

"Even more appalling is the type of victim Tsuyuki chose to prey upon: those who were older; those who lived alone; those who were naive investors; and those who were carefully and strategically manipulated into trusting him," she writes.

Tsuyuki forever changed her "golden years," she added.

"With so much financial uncertainty, at my insistence, [my fiancé] and I postponed marriage. [We] had plans for extensive travel, but that was no longer feasible because of the need to increase my work schedule and reduce expenses. The unceasing anguish and acute humiliation caused by Tsuyuki's actions took a heavy toll on my health--endless worry, inability to sleep, anxiety, depression, and medication. Sadly, my beloved [fiancé] passed away, never having the chance to see this resolved, and still concerned about my well-being and financial future.

"I submit this letter on behalf of justice, and on behalf of all of us whose voices will not be heard in any other way. Because of our ages, some of us will live with the burden of our losses for the remainder of our lives."

Another female victim wrote, "Hitomi and I have shared many special and wonderful memories over the last 30 years including events with his families, children, my family and our many friends. Hitomi always assured me that, with his help, I would be okay financially. This is why I cannot understand how he created such a horrible monster within himself, causing much distress to so many innocent people and their beloved families."

A male victim wrote, "We have trusted Mr. Tsuyuki with our money, [which] we though he was investing for our [retirement]. We have suffered the hardship due to the loss of our finances. Even if it's a small amount to some, it was a lot to us, especially on a fixed income."

Between 1997 and 2007, Tsuyuki collected investments from these and otehr investors for tax-free municipal bonds, but he actually pocketed the money so he could buy cars, a golf club membership, his Coto de Caza home and a vacation property in Mammoth Lakes. He tried to hide his scam with phony paperwork, but he was undone after investors tried but could not cash out--because there was nothing to cash out.

Tsuyuki was sentenced Friday,

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