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This Man Grifted Tokyo's Supermarkets Out of $250,000 with a Soggy Bread Scam

Police have found the shadowy criminal mastermind who raked in thousands by making false claims about store-bought bread being damp and inedible.

by Alex Swerdloff
Aug 26 2015, 8:00pm

Photo via Flickr user Slice of Chic

From now on, it won't be artwork of dubious origin or unmarked bearer bonds that the shadowy, underground denizens covet for their money-making criminal ventures. Instead, the target of international crime rings will be the mushy, yeasty goldmine that is soggy sliced bread. And lots of it.

At least that's the impression we got after reading Rocket24's report on Japan's very own supermarket swindler and his unusual brand of criminal activity. This swindler gives a whole new meaning to the term "doughboy."

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Takashi Ishimoto might just be the world's greatest criminal mastermind … or totally fucking bonkers. The Tokyo resident was recently arrested on suspicion of bilking Japan's bread retailers out of more than 30 million yen—that's an unbelievable US $251,000—by means of a scam relating to fraudulent complaints of, yes, soggy sliced bread.

Here's what he did: The 53-year old swindler contacted a retailer who carried bread in Adachi City. He told them he bought sliced bread from them but that it was soggy. That was Step 1.

Step 2? Another phone call: Ishimoto pretended to be someone from the head office of the retail store. The faux boss would tell the local retailer that the "complaining customer" had called them and alerted them to the complaint. The "boss" would then reprimand the retailer, telling him to give the customer "some replacement bread and all the cash they took in for the day as an apology to the customer."

Only in Tokyo, folks. This scam would never work in the US because no retail store would a) apologize to a customer or b) hand over all the cash they took in that day for any reason.

Moving on.

In the particular instance that finally led to Ishimoto's arrest, he received 300,000 yen—approximately US $2,500—not to mention two lovely loaves of replacement bread.

The police in Tokyo say that Ishimoto admitted to the charges. But here's the kicker: they have since linked him to a series of similar bread scams dating back five years, with total losses from those incidents amounting to about 27 million yen or US $226,000.

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Somewhere in Nippon, Anpanman is weeping tears of curry pan. Can it really be? Can that many retailers be that apologetic in Japan?

Apparently, we're not the only ones scratching our collective heads. Some Japanese commenters had this to say about the incident:

"That's genius." "Well, there's a new way to make money." "That's one professional unemployed guy."

Ok, they have a point. This guy is brilliant. But internet denizens were also incredulous:

"Why would they even bring the day's sales?!" "Is the world getting stupider?" "Why wouldn't they ask for some ID before handing the money over?"

We agree, and are left wondering: Is Ishimoto simply a petty con man, or the Nostradamus of the underworld?