Silk Tree School Defrauded: Millions of Dollars in Damages But No Unease About Daily Operations

Silk Tree School Defrauded: Millions of Dollars in Damages But No Unease About Daily Operations

Yomiuri Shimbun, ねむの木詐欺「被害数億円、運営は心配ない」

Staff Report, February 19, 2011

Kakegawa City Silk Tree School

The Silk Tree School outside Kakegawa City

The faculty of the Silk Tree School for physically handicapped children in Kamitaruki, Kakegawa City, Shizuoka Prefecture learned on the 17th that one of its staff members was suspected of stealing large sums of money from the school’s principal, 83-year old former actress Ms. Mariko Miyagi, through bank fraud.

The next morning, the embarrassed teachers came to work and managed a perfectly ordinary school day. The school has told the prefecture it will continue operating as normal. It has received supportive phone calls and fax messages from all over the country.

According to the staff, on February 17, 56-year old suspect Yumiko Kondō, a senior faculty member who had worked for the school for over 30 years, was arrested and dismissed from her post. Since she was responsible for the school’s accounting, she also managed Ms. Miyagi’s bank account. Her official residence is the school’s women’s dormitory, but she usually lived in Tokyo and was rarely seen at the school. When asked about her, staff members shook their heads and said, “There was nothing flashy about her. She was a normal person who didn’t stand out. We don’t understand why this happened.”

Arrested along with Kondō was 57-year old Nakei Asahina (real name Noriyuki Hirosawa), who had visited the school frequently some years before. He had given a Christmas cake to the children and volunteered at one of the school’s art exhibitions outside the prefecture, among other things. His connection with Kondō is unknown.

The damages are potentially steep, but the faculty said “there are separate bank accounts for managing the school, so we’re not worried about providing the necessities for the children or salaries for the teachers.”

According to the prefecture, Ms. Miyagi and her lawyer visited the Prefectural Office on January 6 and explained the situation. Ms. Miyagi said the damages “are in the millions, but the management of the school is not in danger.” The prefecture gave oral instructions on how to manage the case. On the 18th, the prefectural Office of Welfare for the Disabled called the school to confirm that everything was proceeding as normal.

Original Japanese Version Under the Break:

ねむの木詐欺「被害数億円、運営は心配ない」

(掛川市郊外にある「ねむの木学園」)

静岡県掛川市上垂木の肢体不自由児療護施設「ねむの木学園」の園長で女優の宮城まり子さん(83)の口座から、職員らが多額の金を引き出した詐欺容疑事件が17日、発覚した。

一夜明けた18日、学園では職員が困惑しながらも、入所児童らとともに通常通りの生活を送っていた。学園側は県に対し、経営には影響がないことをすでに伝えている。学園には、事件を知った全国の支援者らから激励の電話やファクスが多数寄せられた。

学園の職員によると、詐欺容疑で17日に警視庁に逮捕され、同日付で学園を解雇された近藤由美子容疑者(56)は、30年以上前から勤務していた古参職員。学園の経理を担当し、宮城さんの口座の管理も任されていたという。住民票は学園の女子寮に置いているが、普段は東京都内で生活し、学園に姿を見せることはほとんどなかったという。同期の職員は「派手なところもなく、目立たないごく普通の人。どうして事件を起こしたのかわからない」と首をかしげていた。

また、近藤容疑者とともに逮捕された朝比奈圭(本名・広沢憲行)容疑者(57)は、数年前まで何回か学園を訪れたことがあった。子供たちにクリスマスケーキをプレゼントしたり、学園が県外で美術展を開いた時にボランティアとして手伝ったりしたこともあるが、近藤容疑者との結びつきはわからないという。

詐欺被害は多額に上る可能性が出ているが、学園側は「学園を運営するための口座は別にあり、子供たちの衣食住や職員の給料などは今のところ心配ない」としている。

県によると、宮城さんと弁護士が今年1月6日に県庁を訪れ、事件について説明した。宮城さんは「被害は数億円に上るが、学校運営などが危機的になることはない」と述べ、県側は適正な管理を行うよう口頭で指導した。県障害者政策課は18日、学園側と連絡を取り、普段通り運営されていることを確認した。

(2011年2月19日11時17分 読売新聞)

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