Police nab online romance scam gang
published : 24 Nov 2016 at 18:34
writer: Jakraphan Nathanri
Police have arrested two Nigerians and three Thai women for allegedly swindling women seeking foreign husbands out of 50 million baht through an internet romance scam.
Police identified the Nigerians as Okwutor Peter, 29, and Jeremiah Ndidi, 27. The Nigerians arrived in Thailand in 2014 on tourist visas and their documents had expired, Provincial Police Region 4 chief Pol Maj Gen Jatupon Parnraksa said on Thursday.
Two of the women suspects, identified as Jaerati Saisin and Nattacha Thongbai, both 30, from Rayong and Yasothon, were married to the Nigerians. The third woman was a 34-year-old Bangkok native, Ketsara Marksiri.
Police arrested the Nigerians and their Thai accomplices at a condominium in Bangkok and seized 20 bank books and ATMs with transactions totalling more than 50 million baht. They also confiscated 15 mobile phones, a laptop computer and 50 other valuable items.
“The suspects tried to destroy the bank books and other documents linking to their victims during the arrest," Pol Maj Gen Jatupon said.
Police were acting on a complaint filed in Udon Thani province last month by the gang’s latest victim who was a 45-year-old rubber plantation owner who had been swindled out of 500,000 baht.
Pol Maj Gen Jatupon said the Nigerians used a familiar trick of claiming to be good-looking, white and well-to-do. They developed close ties with women seeking rich foreign husbands via Facebook or online chat programmes, and proposed marriage.
They would then claim that they were detained by airport and customs authorities for bringing in cash that was more than the legal limit, and asked the victims to transfer money to them to pay for tax on the cash.
According to the complaint, the gang used a Facebook account with the name Bush Bush and a fake photo. The account holder claimed to be an engineer in a global company who wanted to settle down and marry a woman in Thailand. They talked with the victims for six months, with the help of an online translation service, and arranged a meeting with her in Thailand.
The Udon Thani victim was duped into transferring money to her fake prospective husband twice after the man told her he was detained at Phuket airport and later at Don Mueang for the same reason.
Pol Maj Gen Jatupon said three women, all aged over 45, in the Northeast had filed complaints with police for being lured by the online romance scam since last month.
“The gang spent an average of six months on online chats with each victim. Checks on the seized bank books show each transaction from the victims ranged between 50,000 baht and 200,000 baht,” Pol Maj Gen Jatupon said.
A further investigation indicated that Mr Peter and Mr Ndidi were part of a larger Nigerian gang operating an online romance scam led by a Nigerian mafia man identified only Yusuf, who police suspect may still be in Thailand.
The Nigerian suspects would get 70% of the money they deceived from each victim while the rest went to Mr Yusuf, the Provincial Police Region 4 chief said.