One-man fraud machine costs victims B76m
Ex-army sergeant faces slew of complaints over luxury car sales,
Renting out luxury cars can be a risky business.
Three car dealerships are facing 76 million baht in financial damages due to a single customer's fraudulent scheme.
According to Jirabhop Bhuridej, commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), the companies fell victim to Jetsada Srimahasanti, who disappeared with 12 luxury cars, including a Porche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Based on their complaints lodged with the Crime Suppression Division in June, Mr Jetsada, 26, a former army sergeant, came to them and asked to lease cars for his supervisor.
After some time, he came up with excuses about why the cars could not be returned and eventually went dark, the complaints said.
One company managed to track down its car at the car park of a second-hand dealership where they learned it had been pawned by Mr Jetsada.
The suspect apparently used cash from pawning cars to keep the scam going.
After initiating a probe, the CSD found Mr Jetsada faces a number of fraud complaints lodged with several police stations. The investigation is still ongoing.
However, there is also a warrant, sought by the Economic Crime Suppression Division (ECD) and approved by the military court in June, for his arrest for allegedly deceiving people into buying a non-existent debenture.
A group of 21 people filed a complaint with the ECD on May 10.
The ECD and the CSD joined hands in the investigation and located him in the Phatthanakarn area. Finally, an arrest was made on July 30 in front of a condominium in Suan Luang district.
Two warrants, approved by the Phra Khanong Criminal Court and Chiang Mai District Court, were also issued for his arrest over alleged fraud.
"But given the number of complaints filed against the suspect, financial damages are likely to exceed 100 million baht," Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said.
The CIB commissioner said Mr Jetsada is a repeat offender.
He said suspects in such schemes tend to use money swindled from new victims to compensate older victims to settle disputes.
"When the victims get paid, they withdraw their complaints and the investigation is dropped," he said.
"This sort of case involves damages to an individual so a victim can drop the complaint.
"The swindlers then continue with their scams," he said.
However, public fraud cases cannot be withdrawn. In this case, suspects tend to secure bail for their temporary release before fleeing and continuing to scam while on the run.
Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said there are four key approaches to fighting this type of crime.
People must be made aware of it and be careful when they are approached with investment schemes with returns that sound too good to be true, he said.
Next is that law enforcement agents must act swiftly when complaints are filed, he said. The quicker swindlers are arrested and prosecuted, the fewer the victims.
Collaboration with stakeholders can also help prevent crime, he said, adding in this case, police can share information with car rental and second-hand car dealers to alert them about a scam.
The last element is to increase detection and investigation skills, and while this approach takes time, it is necessary, he said.
The CIB has invested resources in improving its officers' skills via the CSD's detective school, he said.
The bureau is about to launch an online course under the CIB detective school for its personnel, said the CIB chief.
"Fraudulent schemes are really a challenge for many countries in part due to technologies. While they make things easy and convenient, they can be abused by criminals.
"In many cases, they aren't even in the country where their scam is hatched," he said.
Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said the best tool to prevent today's crimes is to involve all stakeholders to get them prepared.
It is also necessary to step up cooperation with law enforcement agencies in other countries to keep up with criminals' tricks. New investigation techniques are also necessary, he added.
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