Nigerian-run online scam network busted, 3 arrests

Nigerian-run online scam network busted, 3 arrests

Pol Lt Gen Surachai Khuandechakupt, chief of Provincial Police Region 4, shows a chart depicting the operation of a Nigerian-led romance scam preying on victims in Udon Thani. Three Thais have been arrested and warrants issued for the two Nigerian leaders, he said. (Photo by Chakrapan Nathanri)
Pol Lt Gen Surachai Khuandechakupt, chief of Provincial Police Region 4, shows a chart depicting the operation of a Nigerian-led romance scam preying on victims in Udon Thani. Three Thais have been arrested and warrants issued for the two Nigerian leaders, he said. (Photo by Chakrapan Nathanri)

KHON KAEN: Three Thais working for a Nigerian-led online scam in Udon Thani province have been arrested while fleeing to the South.

Arrest warrants have been approved for the two Nigerian men alleged to have run the network.

Thanate Sripiboon, 48, of Nakhon Si Thammarat province, and two women, Wathinee Krongthong, 49, of Surat Thani and Kotchakorn Onuara, 27, of Khon Kaen, were apprehended in a southern province, Pol Lt Gen Surachai Khuandechakupt, chief of  Provincial Police Region 4, told a media news conference in Khon Kaen on Friday.

Officers also seized bank account books and ATM cards in their possession.

Pol Lt Gen Surachai said the three suspects were members of a romance scam network operated by Nigerians. Police had kept a close watch on the group after it was reported they had swindled money from victims in Udon Thani province.

Court arrest warrants had been obtained for two Nigerian men, John Oquejiofor Ugwu and Ugochukwu Geoffrey Ofoma, the police region 4 chief said.

A transgender woman had earlier filed a complaint with Muang Udon Thani police that she had been duped by a foreign scammer via Instagram into transferring money to him. The scammer used the  Instagram name Cheong Xao and claimed to be a Malaysian national working in the US.  

After they had chatted over the internet for over four weeks, Cheong Xao said he would send brand-name goods to her via a courier firm, but she had to first transfer money to cover the tax charges, about 117,000 baht, to a bank account he nominated.

The victim sent the money, and never heard from the man again, Pol Lt Gen Surachai said.

“Police tracked the bank account number the victim sent the money to and found out it belonged to Mr Thanate", one of the Thai suspects, he said.

"The suspect then implicated Ms Wathinee as a person who withdrew the money, which was later deposited into two bank accounts held by Ms Kotchakorn and Mr Ugochukwu Geoffrey Ofoma."  

An extended police investigation found the gang had been running the scam for more than a year and had at least 10 million baht in circulation in their accounts. Many people were believed to have fallen victim to the gang.

"We are now hunting down the two Nigerian men, who are the leaders of the network. We have learned of their whereabouts in Thailand,’’ Pol Lt Gen Surachai said.


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