A crime ring believed to have committed a string of violent burglaries across Japan apparently received instructions from an individual in the Philippines who goes by the name “Luffy,” investigative sources said.
Luffy is the name of the main character, a pirate captain, in the popular manga series “One Piece.”
According to the sources, police analyzed phone records seized from arrested suspects and found that the country code of the mobile phone number used by Luffy was “63,” which is assigned to the Philippines.
The sources said the names “Kim” and “Mitsuhashi” were also apparently used to give instructions to the perpetrators in Japan.
Police have connected the ring to various burglaries around the country based largely on the similarities of the crimes, including vicious assaults against residents.
Luffy was likely involved in three burglaries in Tokyo–Nakano Ward, Inagi and Komae–as well as one each in Kyoto and Osaka in the Kansai region, the sources said.
The mastermind in the Philippines is believed to have gathered the bandits together through his cellphone before each of those cases.
Police also suspect the same group of bandits in the Inagi and Nakano Ward cases committed similar burglaries in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in November, and in Hiroshima’s Nishi Ward in December.
In fact, the crime ring may have been behind around 40 robberies and thefts in Japan since last year, including more than a dozen involving violence, the sources said.
Recruiting people for the heists was made online, the sources said.
Four men have been arrested in connection with the burglary in Nakano Ward in December.
According to the sources, one of the suspects said, “I applied for a ‘dark part-time job,’” referring to shady or illegal work offered online. “I joined the group to commit a burglary, I don’t know the other members.”
In the Kyoto case, one suspect reportedly said he had been looking for high-paying work and accepted an offer for the robbery job through the internet, the sources said.
In the Kyoto robbery, 41 watches worth about 69 million yen ($533,000) were stolen from a store in the city’s Nakagyo Ward in May last year.
A woman in her 20s who was found selling six of the watches was arrested on suspicion of violating the anti-organized crime law and disposing of benefits from a crime.
“I was introduced to the job as a watch reseller on social media,” investigators quoted her as saying.
The last robbery attributed to the group occurred on Jan. 19 at a house in Komae, a city in western Tokyo. Kinuyo Oshio, 90, a resident of the house, was killed in the crime.
Police said they found four boxes of parcels, clothing, a driver’s license and a Franck Muller luxury watch in a rental car that may have been used in the murder-robbery.
A watch of the same brand was missing from Oshio’s home, the sources said.
Restraints, ski masks, about 30 fingerprints and seven shoe imprints were collected from the car, the sources said.
Police have also arrested seven people on suspicion of burglary and assault at a house in Tokyo’s Inagi on Oct. 20.
Six of them wearing courier uniforms forced their way into the house around 4 p.m. when a woman in her 30s opened the front door, the sources said.
They threatened her with scissors, covered her mouth and choked her. Her two children’s wrists were bound and their mouths covered with adhesive tape.
The mother suffered injuries that required 10 days to heal.
Around 35 million yen in cash and about 140 items worth around 8.6 million yen in total, including gold bars, were taken from the house.
Another person sold the stolen items, including gold bars, at an upscale resale shop in Tokyo, investigators said. That seller was arrested on suspicion of disposing of proceeds from a crime.