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Japan robbery ring escalated from phone grifts to violent crime

Alleged leaders apparently turned to same pyramid method used in past scams

Yuki Watanabe, left, the suspected mastermind behind the robberies, was taken into police custody in Tokyo after being deported from the Philippines.   © AP

TOKYO -- The four men accused of coordinating a monthslong string of robberies around Japan appear to have transitioned from phone scams to more violent crime, and brought their old methods with them, according to investigators.

The suspects, including alleged ringleader Yuki Watanabe, were deported from the Philippines this week and arrested by Tokyo police. The four are believed to have been part of a phone fraud ring that conned victims out of more than 6 billion yen ($46 million).

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