Photo/IllutrationA directive released by the health ministry to prefectural governments calling for stricter evaluations of applications for childbirth allowances involving children born abroad (Yuta Ogi)

A Japanese-Bolivian man was rearrested on Aug. 22 on suspicion of using phony birth certificates to scam local governments out of millions of yen in allowances for having children.

Individuals who are enrolled in the national health insurance program can receive such benefits even if a child is born in another country.

Koshio Mario Ishii, 51, not only used fake birth certificates with the seals of foreign hospitals and doctors attached, but also indicated on them the birth of triplets or twins apparently to increase the allowance received, police said.

The arrest of the man, who is suspected of fraud and attempted fraud, was made by a joint investigative team comprising members of the Chiba and Kanagawa prefectural police.

A 36-year-old Bolivian woman was also arrested on the same suspicions for conspiring with the man.

According to investigative sources, in May 2017, Ishii submitted fake birth papers to a local government in Chiba Prefecture and received a total of 1.21 million yen ($11,400) the following month as a childbirth allowance.

In June 2017, he used a similar scheme at a local government office in Gunma Prefecture in an attempt to receive a similar childbirth allowance.

Ishii is believed to have pulled off the same scam at a local government in the Kinki region, using a different woman as the alleged mother, investigative sources said.

He was first arrested on Aug. 1 on suspicion of defrauding the local government out of about 1.26 million yen.

The ongoing investigation has expanded to about 40 cases in the Kanto, Chubu and Kinki regions, with sources saying Ishii may have defrauded local governments out of as much as 20 million yen.

Investigative sources said Ishii was considered an influential figure among Spanish-speaking South Americans living in Japan. He operated a company out of his home in Totsuka Ward, Yokohama, translating foreign documents and compiling Japanese documents for those with insufficient language ability.

He created hospital and doctor seals that were used on the fake birth certificates submitted to local governments, according to the Kanagawa prefectural police.

According to the health ministry, about 3 percent of the childbirth allowances given in fiscal 2017 were for children born outside of Japan. A total of 1.27 billion yen was paid out that year for such allowances.

As it is difficult to verify the content of birth papers in many cases, the childbirth allowance program is vulnerable to abuse.

In some cases, local government officials have tried to contact the hospital listed on the birth certificate, but without success, apparently because the information was false.

For such reasons, the ministry issued a directive in April to prefectural governments calling for stricter evaluations of applications for childbirth allowances involving births overseas.

(This article was written by Hirohisa Yamashita, Tomomi Terasawa and Erika Matsumoto.)