03/26/04 — Yen scam suspect charged

View Archive

Yen scam suspect charged

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on March 26, 2004 2:04 PM

A former Goldsboro resident with a yen for Japanese money has been sentenced to about two to three years in prison -- less than 10 percent of the time that he could have received.

Bruce Wiggins, 40, of Norfolk, Va., was accused of robbing a Japanese businessman last year and then trying to exchange his Japanese yen at a bank.

Wiggins on Thursday entered an Alford plea in Wayne County Superior Court to a charge of felony common-law robbery. A defendant who uses an Alford plea does not plead guilty but is treated as if he were guilty. Wiggins was sentenced by Judge Ernest B. Fullwood of Wilmington to 25 to 30 months.

Wiggins allegedly barged into a room at the Country Inn and Suites on Norwood Avenue at about 10:45 p.m. May 5, displayed a handgun, then assaulted, kidnapped and robbed the guest of 60,000 Japanese yen, a digital camera and a backpack.

When Goldsboro police arrived at the hotel, they discovered that the victim, Hirouyuki Kobayashi, who works for Uchiyama America, did not speak English. His lack of English stalled their investigation until an interpreter could be found.

Investigator Chad Calloway was assigned the case, and a day later police got a break. A man had tried to exchange the yen -- which was worth about $2,600 -- for American money. Police were notified, and a suspect was arrested.

Wiggins, who had lived on North Rudolph Street, was charged with first-degree burglary, first-degree kidnapping, armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon while inflicting serious injury. He was placed in the Wayne County Jail in lieu of a $100,000 secured bond.

If Wiggins had been convicted of the four offenses, he could have been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

When Kobayashi was shown a lineup, he picked Wiggins, but Investigator Calloway said the victim was not 100 percent certain.

Assistant District Attorney Claud Ferguson then worked out a plea arrangement with Wiggins and his lawyer, Louis Jordan of Goldsboro. Wiggins pleaded to the lesser offense in exchange to the state's dismissal of the four felony charges.

Wiggins was credited with the 10 months he served while awaiting sentencing and will be eligible for release from prison in 15 to 20 months.

"We had a good case," Calloway said. But the "victim just wanted to get it over with."