Up Front: IN THE ROUGH
UNCLE SAM, THE REPO MAN
High roller Ken Mizuno knew how to profit from the love of his fellow Japanese for golf. Starting in 1988, he allegedly oversold--by about 20 times--$20,000 memberships to his Ibaragi Country Club, two hours north of Tokyo. Then, authorities say, he unlawfully funneled about $100 million of the proceeds into U.S. investments, notably two country clubs. But now, Mizuno (no relation to the sporting-goods makers) has pleaded guilty in Japan to fraud and tax-evasion charges. Mizuno's lawyer in Japan didn't return calls for comment.
Result: Mizuno's U.S. assets, one of the largest nondrug seizures ever, will be auctioned off to pay back bilked Japanese golfers. On the block on May 19 will be the famed Indian Wells Country Club & Hotel outside Palm Springs, Calif. Founded by the late entertainer Desi Arnaz, Indian Wells is a home to the Bob Hope Classic. The other club, the Royal Kenfield outside Las Vegas, will go Apr. 28. It's doubtful, though, that 100% of the money will be recovered. Officials admit falling real estate prices have cut Indian Wells's value to about half the $60 million that Mizuno paid.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT AND JULIE TILSNER