500-million baht fake sacred items scam uncovered

500-million baht fake sacred items scam uncovered

Victims reportedly paid more than 500 million baht to at least three scam artists who convinced them that Ganesha (above) and other 'sacred' talismans were authentic and specially blessed. (Photos by Thiti Wannamontha)
Victims reportedly paid more than 500 million baht to at least three scam artists who convinced them that Ganesha (above) and other 'sacred' talismans were authentic and specially blessed. (Photos by Thiti Wannamontha)

The CSD has arrested three suspects who allegedly lured people into buying what they claimed were talismans from India and Myanmar, in a scam that incurred more than 500 million baht in damages.

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3 nabbed over 'fake' sacred items

Wassayos Ngamkham

The Crime Suppression Division (CSD) has arrested three suspects who allegedly lured people into buying what they claimed were talismans from India and Myanmar, in a scam that incurred more than 500 million baht in damages.

They advertised on the Facebook page of one of the suspects, Sumali Loetwilai, a range of objects including statues of Ganesha (a Hindu god with an elephant head) and kritsana (agarwood) and jade pendants said to have been made sacred in a seven-day ritual. However, the objects they sold turned out not to be what they claimed, according to CSD investigators.

The valuable wood they advertised was just "bamboo and bean plants" while the jade was not authentic, deputy CSD chief Pol Col Chakhrit Sawatdi said Monday, referring to inspections conducted by experts from the Royal Forest and Mineral Resources departments.

Officers tracked down their online activities and whereabouts after receiving complaints from many people who bought the objects for good luck and resale purposes.

The suspects include a couple – Sumali Loetwilai, 32, and Prachuap Sunaphot, 34 – arrested in Chiang Rai's Muang district, and another woman identified as Phanit Malithong, 40, nabbed in Chumphon's Muang district.

According to an initial investigation, the couple allegedly colluded to run the scam while Ms Phanit helped them open bank accounts that were used in transactions.

Officers charged them with cheating people and violating the Computer Crime Act, but the trio denied the allegations.

One victim Prawinnut Chaprasoet, 33, said she was lured in by an advertisement on Sumali Loetwilai's Facebook page selling a Ganesha statue at 3,990 baht, boasting of it as a "wealth booster".

That was how she came to know Ms Sumali, who later suggested she become a sales representative. Ms Prawinnut agreed to the deal in which she would buy talismans from Ms Sumali in bulk and resell them for a profit of about 1000 baht each.

She spent several million baht buying the objects from Ms Sumali for this venture. She later opened a Facebook page called "Pumpuy Apple Shop" to sell the objects and based her shop in Phuket, her home province.

Ms Prawinnut, who sold the products to many of her relatives and friends, said she felt guilty when she learned they were fake. She had been reselling the talismans for seven months, causing more than 10 million baht in damages.

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  • Act: a law passed by a country’s government - พ.ร.บ. พระราชบัญญัติ
  • advertise: to tell the public about a product or a service, political candidate, etc. in order to encourage people to buy, use or support it - ลงโฆษณา
  • allegations (noun): accusations - ข้อกล่าวหา
  • allegedly: claimed to have done something wrong, but not yet proven - ที่ถูกกล่าวหา
  • arrest (verb): (of the police) to take someone to a police station because they are believed to have committed a crime - จับกุม
  • authentic: real, not false or copied - ของแท้
  • bamboo (noun): a tree that grows in thick bunches of long green poles - ต้นไผ่, ไม้ไผ่
  • boast: to proudly tell other people what you can do or have done - คุยโว, โว, โม้, โอ้อวด
  • booster (noun): something that gives extra strength - สิ่งที่เพิ่มกำลังหรือความแข็งแรง
  • bulk (adj): large amounts of something; done in large numbers or amounts - จำนวนมาก
  • cheat (verb): to trick somebody or make them believe something which is not true - โกง
  • chief: a person with a high rank or the highest rank in a company or an organisation - หัวหน้า, ผู้นำ
  • claim: to say that something is true although it has not been proved and other people may not believe it - อ้าง
  • collude: to act together secretly or illegally in order to deceive or cheat someone - สมรู้ร่วมคิด
  • complaints (noun): when people say that something is wrong or not satisfactory - การร้องเรียน
  • conduct: to do something in an organised way; to carry out — - ลงมือทำ, ดำเนิน, ปฏิบัติ
  • couple: two people who are married or are involved in a romantic relationship - คู่แต่งงานกัน, คุ่รัก
  • crime: an illegal activity or action - อาชญากรรม
  • Crime Suppression Division (CSD): a national police department responsible for conducting most of the technical investigations of criminal offenses - กองบังคับการปราบปราม
  • deal (noun): a formal agreement, especially in business or politics - ข้อตกลง, การตกลงซื้อขาย, การซื้อขาย
  • denied (verb): said that something is not true or did not happen - ปฏิเสธ
  • deputy: a person whose rank is immediately below that of the leader of an organisation - รอง
  • fake: made to look like something real in order to trick people - ที่ทำปลอม
  • guilty: (adj) feeling ashamed because you have done something that you know is wrong -
  • identified (verb): named, searched for a discovered - ระบุ
  • incurred: to have to pay money as a result of doing something - ประสบ, ได้รับ
  • initial: early; first - เบื้องต้น
  • inspection: an official process of checking that things are in the correct condition or that people are doing what they should - การตรวจสอบตรวจตรา
  • investigators (noun): people whose jobs are to officially find out the facts about something - ผู้สอบสวน, ผู้สำรวจ, ผู้ตรวจสอบ
  • jade: a hard stone that is usually green and is used in making jewellery and decorative objects - หยก,แร่หยก
  • lure (verb): to persuade someone to do something by making it seem very attractive - หลอกล่อ
  • mineral: a valuable or useful chemical substance which is formed naturally in the ground - แร่
  • nabbed (verb): caught or arrested - ถูกจับ, โดนจับกุม
  • pendant: a piece of jewellery that hangs from a chain around your neck - สร้อยคอ
  • profit: money that you make from selling goods and services after all your costs have been paid - กำไร
  • purposes (noun): the intentions, aims or functions of something; the things that something is supposed to achieve - จุดประสงค์, เป้าหมาย, วัตถุประสงค์
  • range: a number of different things that are of the same general type - ขอบข่าย
  • relatives (noun): members of your family - ญาติพี่น้อง
  • resources: things such as water, coal, trees and oil that exist in nature and can be used by people - ทรัพยากร
  • ritual: a set of fixed actions and sometimes words performed regularly, especially as part of a ceremony - พิธีกรรม
  • sacred: considered to be holy - ศักดิ์สิทธิ์
  • sales representatives: sales reps, people employed to represent a business and sell its products and services -
  • scam: a dishonest plan, especially for getting money - กลโกง, แผนร้าย
  • statue: a human or animal image that is made of stone, wood, metal, etc. - รูปปั้น
  • suggest: to mention an idea or a plan for somebody else to think about - เสนอ, เสนอแนะ
  • suspects (noun): people who are thought to have committed a crime - ผู้ต้องสงสัย
  • talisman: an object that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck - เครื่องราง, สิ่งนำโชค
  • track down (verb): to find someone or something - ตามรอย
  • transactions (noun): the action or process of buying or selling things - การค้า, การติดต่อทางธุรกิจ
  • trio (noun): a group of three people; a group of three - กลุ่มที่ประกอบด้วย 3 คน; กลุ่มที่ประกอบด้วย 3
  • valuable: worth a lot of money - มีค่า
  • venture: a new activity, usually in business, which involves risk or uncertainty - ธุริกิจเสี่ยงแต่สามารถทำกำไรได้
  • victim: someone who has been harmed, injured or killed as the result of a crime - เหยื่อผู้เคราะห์ร้าย
  • violate: to do something that is against a law, rule or agreement - ฝ่าฝืน, ละเมิด
  • wealth: a large amount of money, property, etc. that a person or country owns - ความมั่งคั่ง
  • whereabouts: where someone is - ที่อยู่,สถานที่,ตำแหน่งที่
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