Swindling people out of money and then speaking about it publicly is not the smartest of moves, as Mai Watanabe recently found out to her considerable cost. The 25-year-old former sex worker, who goes by the name of “itadakijoshi-Riri-chan” (Sugar Baby Riri) was handed a nine-year prison sentence on Monday for defrauding three people out of ¥155 million (approximately $1 million) and for selling “papakatsu” manuals, advising women how to follow in her footsteps by conning older men out of money. She was also convicted of evading income tax, reportedly hiding around ¥40 million from her various scams.

In addition to the nine-year sentence, the Nagoya District Court fined Watanabe ¥8 million. Prosecutors were seeking a 12-year sentence and a fine of ¥12 million. Watanabe was first arrested in August last year on charges of aiding and abetting fraud through her papakatsu guidebooks. One of them was sold to a Nagoya woman in her early-20s who swindled two men out of more than ¥10 million. Later in the year, she was rearrested for scamming a man in his mid-50s after telling him she was in debt due to the failure of an apparel company.

host club

Mounting Debt Due to Regular Host Club Visits

Between March 2021 and August 2023, she reportedly swindled him out of ¥117 million. She defrauded another two men out of ¥38 million between April and August of last year. Despite this, Watanabe still found herself in debt due to her regular jaunts to host clubs. “Hosts were the only ones who made me laugh and made me feel so happy,” she said in a statement obtained by FNN. “It was the first time in my life that I had such an enjoyable experience, and I was so happy. I felt like I had found the meaning of life, and my mood was so bright that I felt like my life had been saved.”

Watanabe fell in love with a host in Tokyo’s Kabukicho district and was determined to help him become number one in terms of sales at the club. “I thought it was fair game to commit fraud for the sake of the host,” she said during the trial. She did, however, admit to doing “something really bad.” Watanabe, who openly spoke about her crimes on YouTube and social media, pleaded guilty last December. “The crime is a very insidious one utilizing sweet-talking to make the victims from a dating app fall in love,” said Presiding Judge Yoichi Omura. He added that the papakatsu manual “encouraged similar crimes.”


The Secretive and Sometimes Dangerous World of Papakatsu

Watanabe’s itadakijoshi nickname refers to young women who date older men in exchange for financial gain. While it was nominated for one of the Japanese buzzwords of 2023, the more common term used here is papakatsu. This form of compensated dating is not in itself illegal — as long as it’s nonsexual — but it can be dangerous both for young women and older men. Five years ago, Takehiko Goto was arrested for sexually assaulting a teenage girl at a Tokyo hotel. In 2022, five boys and one girl, aged between 16 and 19, allegedly stole a man’s car and forced him to buy them clothes and earphones for not exposing him to the police. That same year, Haruka Fujii, 24, was indicted on suspicion of killing and then robbing 82-year-old Katsuzo Kono at a love hotel in Saitama city.

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