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Thai Immigration Takes Down Scam Call Center, 15 Japanese Men Arrested

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PATTAYA – Thailand’s Immigration police has arrested Fifteen Japanese nationals suspected of scamming millions of dollars from victims in Japan from a home in the resort town of Pattaya in Chonburi Province.

They will be charged with working illegally in the kingdom, according to the immigration police.

At a press conference late Friday in Pattaya, southeast of the capital Bangkok, Pol. Maj Gen Surachet Surachet Hakpal, head of the Immigration Bureau, announced the arrest of the 15 men, aged between 22 and 54.

They were taken into custody earlier in the day during a raid on a rented luxury house in the seaside town, he said, adding that the police seized 52 internet protocol phones, 19 notebook computers, routers and other equipment as well as a list of victims and bank accounts.

The gang targeted people in Japan, particularly those retired and living alone, and in just two months duped around 500 victims out of a total of between 400 million and 500 million baht ($12.6 million and $15.8 million), he said.

Attached to a wall of the house was a sheet of paper listing directives for the scammers to follow, such as “Don’t be negative!” “Keep calm!” and “Never fail to earn!”

There was also another sheet of paper on which a number labeled as “current sales” was written, and another number considered to be the target amount.

The scammers would allegedly call their victims from the house to falsely claim that their phone use exceeded a limit and that they would need to pay an excess charge to continue using their phones.

The police said the landlord alerted authorities after becoming suspicious about the large number of phones in the house.

According to police sources, it is the first time for such a scam victimizing people in Japan to be uncovered in Thailand.

As the men entered Thailand on temporary tourist visas, they will be charged with working without legal permission and fined before being sent back to Japan, Surachet said.

The men are currently being detained at the Bangkok immigration office, with no timeframe given for the proceedings against them. All of the men deny the allegations against them.

According to the police, the gang used Thailand as a base because Japanese nationals can enter the country without a visa and the country offers easy, high-speed internet access.

Meanwhile, Thai Police took into custody a 61-year-old Thai businessman accused of running a pyramid scheme that allegedly duped thousands of people and reportedly caused damage estimated at Bt3 billion, Immigration Bureau commissioner Pol Lt-General Surachate Hakparn said on Saturday at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Kittikorn Wannawasuthorn, who was wanted for fraud and other related offences, was arrested on March 29 in Vietnam where he was apprehended thanks to Thai-Vietnam police collaboration. Another wanted female suspect, Sirawanporn Chaiwatcharakup, 53, who had also fled to Vietnam with Kittikorn, remained at large, Surachate said.

The alleged scam, running since October last year, had attracted thousands of people to open some 86,000 membership accounts (many members held multiple accounts) with it, resulting in Bt3 billion in losses, Surachate said. Two months later, the company shuttered and its executives disappeared, resulting in more than 1,000 people filing complaints with police.

Source: Japan Today, The Nation