Photo/IllutrationMeiji Shrine in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Police have arrested a man in his late 70s on suspicion of swindling wallets out of unsuspecting victims after convincing them to do an errand for him.

It turns out he's been up to such tricks for half a century.

"I targeted young, weak-looking men," police quoted Shizuo Hori, an unemployed man who lives in Utsunomiya as saying.

Police said Jan. 9 that the 79-year-old had been committing theft using such con artistry for more than 50 years by approaching young men who he believed he could take advantage of psychologically.

According to police, in one such case, Hori showed an envelope to a man in his late 20s walking on the grounds of Meiji Shrine in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward on Feb. 15, 2015, and said, “I'd like you to deliver this envelop to a person at a cafe over there.”

Hori then showed the victim a piece of paper with a false name on it, saying: "This is my name. If you show this paper to the person, he will understand."

The suspect explained to the victim that the sealed envelope contained 360,000 yen ($3,300) in cash, though it actually did not contain any bills, and added, "The person I want you to deliver it to is the cafe manager."

He then succeeded in acquiring the victim's wallet, which contained 22,000 yen, by adding, "I'll hold it for you so that you don't run away with the money."

The victim later found out that the envelope contained only a folded brochure, but by then it was too late--Hori was long gone.

The suspect told police, "I see what I did as deception, not wallet-snatching." Police, however, said he is suspected of theft, not fraud, as the victim did not consent to hand over his wallet.

Hori was put on the police's wanted list and was nabbed during an investigation into another theft he committed by similar deception in September 2018 within the jurisdiction of police in charge of the Meiji Shrine case.