A former executive of foot-reading cult Ho-no-Hana who wrote a manual that helped the cult swindle three housewives out of 10 million yen was Monday sentenced to prison.
In handing down the Tokyo District Court ruling on the former executive, Shigeru Hiraga, Presiding Judge Toshio Nagai said Hiraga had played a central role in the cult's activities.
"He made up the (foot-reading) manual himself and lectured members of the religious organization," Nagai said. "He played a central role in the foot readings."
Hiraga was sentenced to four years behind bars. He is the fifth member of the cult to be found guilty of fraud, but is the first to go to prison for the crimes.
During the ruling, Hiraga tried to defend his actions, saying he had the ability to read people's feet.
"At the time, I was able to find out about people's lives and future by reading the soles of their feet," he said.
Nagai, however, dismissed the claims.
"The defendant was aware that reading people's feet, even if it meant fooling people into believing a lie, was just a step to getting people to participate in cult activities," he said.
Hiraga was convicted of conspiring with cult founder Hogen Fukunaga to play on housewives fears and extort money from them. After reading the soles of their feet, senior cultists would warn that they would develop cancer and die -- unless they paid hefty consultation fees and attended cult-organized training sessions.
The cult reportedly swindled about 10 million yen from three housewives alone through the ruse.