Raids net gamblers, phone scammers
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Raids net gamblers, phone scammers

Border regions a magnet for foreign gamblers and fraudsters even during the Covid pandemic

The Crime Suppression Division (CSD) and Immigration Bureau (IB) launched operations to suppress transnational call centre fraud scams and online gambling in Mae Hong Son, Tak and Chiang Rai last week.

Pol Maj Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej, deputy commissioner of Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), told the Bangkok Post the first operation was carried out by the CSD's sub-division 4 last Monday at several resorts across from Rak Thai village in Mae Hong Son's Muang district.

The raid, he said, followed tip-offs about a group of Chinese nationals who relocated to tambon Mok Champae after entering the country illegally following a conflict with ethnic minority groups in Myanmar. The group moved so they could resume their call centre scam, which caused a spike in Covid-19 transmission in recent weeks.

The gang, police said, would rent resorts across the area to run the scam, which mainly targets other Chinese nationals.

The gang created fake social media profiles to present themselves as reliable cryptocurrency investors to swindle money from their victims.

They tended to communicate via Voice over IP (VoIP) system, which was difficult to track down, Pol Maj Gen Jirabhop said.

Police took a month to investigate clues given by residents, some of whom had been hired as security guards for the group when they moved from one resort to another.

The operation eventually branched out to six different areas, with officers from the Hanuman task force arresting a total of 53 foreigners -- 40 Chinese, 12 from Myanmar and a Filipino -- and seizing 300 mobile phones and other items which included desktop computers, SIM cards, and passport-forging equipment.

Hanuman task force officers escort a group of foreigners who are allegedly involved with a call centre scam after a raid in Mae Hong Son. (CSD police photo)

All will be charged with illegal entry and living in the kingdom without permission, before they are deported back to their countries, Pol Maj Gen Jirabhop said.

IB chief Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang also told the Bangkok Post that he led immigration police to beef up border patrols in Tak and Chiang Rai to prevent migrant trafficking and stop Thais from illegally crossing to gamble in Myanmar.

Following tip-offs about an illegal online betting operation near the border, Pol Lt Gen Sompong said the police on Wednesday raided a gambling den which was taking bets for the Euro 2020 football matches on Songkwae Road in Tak's Mae Sot district.

Police arrested two men, Siva Malipuang, 36, and Siwakorn Meesiri, 22, both from Lop Buri, and seized 200 grammes of marijuana, six notebooks and desktop computers, along with 19 ATM cards and 19 passbooks.

The pair were estimated to earn over 20 million baht each month, police said, adding they face charges of persuading others to gamble and illegal possession of Type 5 narcotics.

Meanwhile in Chiang Rai, investigators raided Vintage Home Doi Maesalong hotel at tambon Mae Salong Nok in Mae Fa Luang district last Thursday, Pol Lt Gen Sompong said.

Sompong: Beef up border patrols

Eighteen people were seen taking online bets for the Euro 2020 and Copa America football matches and hosting baccarat games online.

Police seized 12 computer devices, 21 monitors, along with ATM cards and several mobile phones.

Thitichok Thaweeaphiradeepaijit, 21, admitted being the admin of three gambling websites which generated about 50 million baht each month.

The money, he said, was meant to be transferred to Malaysia.

All faced charges for colluding to persuade others to gamble, as well as violating the provincial disease control committee's announcement.

Pol Lt Gen Sompong said online gambling dens which are operating along the border are possibly backed by foreign funders, which may come from China and Malaysia.

The backers, he said, tend to only cross the border illegally to oversee their businesses, which are estimated to generate between 20-50 million baht per den each month.

Police are investigating a trace of financial transactions to track those foreign funders, he added.

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