Executive caught after leaving clients stranded at airport
published : 12 Apr 2017 at 17:51
updated: 13 Apr 2017 at 11:02
writer: Wassayos Ngamkham
An executive of WealthEver has been arrested in Ranong while she and her family were escaping after allegedly deceiving customers into paying for a non-existent Japan trip.
Pasit "Shogun" Arinchalatis was arrested near hot springs in Muang district of the southern province, a Crime Suppression Division police said on Wednesday.
She will be taken by helicopter to the CSD for interrogation on Wednesday night.
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Ms Pasit and her family left their condominium on Tuesday night for Ranong after 2,000 passengers were abandoned by the company at Suvarnabhumi airport.
Earlier, police and soldiers joined forces in the hunt for the executive of WealthEver, a direct- sale company which allegedly attracted new members by promising Japan trips.
Police and soldiers in Chumphon and Ranong were on alert and instructed to intercept a vehicle of the WealthEver executive as she could be on her way to escape authorities, according to the CSD. Marine police were keeping an eye on the Andaman Coast, while helicopters flew from Bangkok to the southern province for aerial patrol on roads expected to be her escape route, the agency said.
Footage of a CCTV shows Pasit Arinchalatis (right) and her family leaving their condominium on Tuesday night. (Photo released by Crime Suppression Division)
The suspect and her family were travelling in a grey Mitsubishi Pajero sports utility vehicle.
The hunt was launched after travellers trapped at Suvarnabhumi lodged complaints with police. They had paid WealthEver for a trip to Osaka and other Japanese cities from Tuesday to Sunday.
An earlier report said about 1,000 passengers were the victims of the firm but Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) commissioner Pol Lt Gen Thitirach Nonghanphitak doubled the number on Wednesday afternoon.
So far, 470 of them have sought help from police to take action against her, while others either plan to come forward later or hope to get their money back, he added.
Ms Pasit faces a fraud charge and more could be added later, the CIB chief said.
An arrest warrant has not been issued for her as police rely on the military to use the National Council for Peace and Order power to go after her.
Pol Lt Gen Thitirach said the police planned to ask the Anti-Money Laundering Officer to confiscate her assets and sell them to repay the tourists.
The chaos at Suvarnabhumi began on Tuesday night when the tourists arrived at Suvarnabhumi and did not find representatives of the firm waiting for them. A check with several airlines found that no charter flights had been arranged for their trip as promised.
By that time, they knew that they were deceived.
A sound clip believed to be from Ms Pasit sent to them later claimed that charter planes could not come to pick them up after some of them filed complaints with the police.
"Anybody who wants to cancel the trip can just tell us. We'll pay you back in three days," the clip says, adding another trip planned for Wednesday was also called off.
The clip was given to the CSD as another piece of evidence.
WealthEver, which claimed to sell food supplements, used trips to Japan to solicit members. Membership fees start at 500 baht and an 8,380-baht upgrade to another level comes with a free trip to Japan and two bottles of the supplements.
The members also can collect more points by selling the products to other people.
Police suspected it was a pyramid scam.
As word of mouth about the free trip spread around, more people joined the firm directly or indirectly through its network. The membership price with a tour package was also raised.
A brochure showed by a traveller at the airport says the trip was exclusively for WealthEver members who would fly with Cathay Pacific Airways.
Another brochure had been posted on pantip.com with the same date of travel and also by the same airline. The community website later removed it.
The airline was alerted about the trip and reported to the Lumpini police station on March 29 no chartered flights had been booked for the period. It also warned tourists of possible fraud.