WORLD

Thai police bust call scammers who preyed on older Americans

Mar 22, 2023, 8:49 AM

BANGKOK (AP) — Thai police announced Wednesday they have busted a gang that operated call centers to deceive elderly U.S. citizens into wiring them money, netting more than 3 billion baht ($87 million).

Police said they had arrested 21 people in the syndicate after simultaneously raiding nine locations across four Thai provinces on Tuesday, seizing 162 bank accounts, 61 mobile phones, two cars, one gun, and multiple real estate properties. Another Thai suspect was arrested Wednesday. U.S. agents took part in the raids.

The suspects, including five Indian nationals and 15 Thais have been charged with involvement in transnational crime, fraud by impersonating others, fraud of the people, inputting false information into computer systems that causes damage to others, money laundering and conspiring to launder money.

The scam involved the perpetrators telling their victims they were law enforcement agents carrying out a criminal investigation of money laundering, and their funds were suspicious so needed to be transferred to them to be verified, police said. In addition to that ruse, which is a fairly common scam, some victims’ computers were hacked, they said.

The mostly elderly victims included doctors, professors, dentists, army personnel, and businesspeople, police said.

Investigators went undercover to track the gang’s money and found it had been laundered through gold shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues in Chonburi province, 125 kilometers (78 miles) southeast of Bangkok. The area has long had a reputation for harboring members of foreign criminal gangs.

Police said the syndicate was led by Indian nationals with assets hidden in Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates, Peru and Poland.

FBI and U.S. Secret Service agents alerted Thai police to the gang’s activities after similar crimes were found to have caused over $3 billion in losses in some 72,000 cases in 2020-2021, police said.

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Thai police bust call scammers who preyed on older Americans