Updated Phuket News Report
PHUKET: An American man who allegedly defrauded friends of millions of dollars is being sent to an Immigration detention centre in Bangkok today after being arrested on Tuesday at his home on Phuket.
Roger A. Miller, 58, who allegedly fled to Phuket to avoid prosecution in the US for grand theft, told Phuketwan
today that he was broke and the money was all gone. He blamed two unnamed partners for scamming him.
Victims have told US investigators that Mr Miller befriended and misled family friends and associates at Florida's Oriole Golf and Tennis Country Club into investing in several schemes, including a Phuket property project.
Mr Miller told a media conference at Immigration headquarters on Phuket today that he had bought 7.5 rai of land in Phang Nga on Phang Nga Bay at 22 million baht a rai and planned to erect a block of 140 condominiums for sale at between 5 million baht to 9.5 million baht.
Reacting quickly to the issuing of an international warrant, Immigration officers arrested Mr Miller at his apartment in the central Phuket district of Gett-Ho on Tuesday. He could face up to 30 years in jail in the US.
He said he was trying to resurrect the Phuket project and a man named Vincent Watkins was trying to attract investment from British and Russian sources. The project would cost $8 million for a return of $32 million, he said.
So the money from investors is still safe?
There were four partners in the Rama Lama Company originally, all American, he told today's conference.
''Two of the American partners turned out to be greedy and that's what basically busted the company,'' Mr Miller said. ''They were staying here and we [he and his remaining partner Matthew Willie] were going back and forth.
''The money went in the front door and out the back door, to make a long story short.''
He said there was plenty of money but it was not spent as it should have been ''due to the other two partners. They had their job to do over here.''
''What's the word? Scammed. We were scammed big time. We were friends for years.''
Mr Miller, who has a Thai wife, had been coming ''off and on'' since 2007 to Phuket but had stayed on Phuket since 2009.
''I don't want to have happen what happened before,'' he said. ''I was an absentee owner. I wasn't here to watch what was going on. Had I stayed here from the beginning, this would be a whole different story right now.
''We relied on our friends and partners to do things on behalf of the company. They simply weren't done. Every time we came over, we got 'oh we're doing this and oh we're going to change that' and 'we need more money for this.'
''They went so far as to deliver construction materials to the site one time and have people clearing it. It was just a big show.
''In the scheme of things, we knew from the beginning it was going to take about three to four years for everything. By about a year and a half later, Matthew and I came over and we knew there was a problem.
''We didn't find out until two days before we had to go back on our tourist visas. I came back right away after that and realised there was no money in the bank accounts, the accounts weren't paid, the attorney wasn't paid . . . on and on and on. . . I can't begin to tell you.
''Had I not come back when I did, I would have lost the land.''
Mr Miller said he even had private investigators come from the US to try to collect from the other partners. ''The first time they just couldn't find them at all.''
One of the investigators was killed just before confronting one of the partners, Mr Miller said. ''So the investigation went kaput.'' The investigation cost $250,000 on behalf of the investors, he said.
He was also checked out by the private investigators, who reported back and said Mr Miller and his remaining partner had been scammed, Mr Miller said.
''My phone was always on, I always answered it. I was always available. I never hid from anybody. I didn't flee here. I came to try to solve a problem.
''The investors, they're all my friends, for years, a lot of them are my family and Matthew's family. My life savings and Matthew's life savings have been poured into this. It's not that I was a non-investor.
''I have no home, I have no health insurance. I will get an attorney there [the US] and try to work through this.''
Mr Miller thanked the Thai people for their treatment of him but later added: ''Part of the problems is I wasn't aware of the process. I know if this had happened in America it would have been a different turnaround.
''I'd know where to go, who to see, what to do. Over here, I was totally a fish out of water. Because of that, it was easy for these other two, who had been here a long time, to stay out of the way.
''One of the partners was Matthew's best friend from school. The other was Matthew's best friend's friend from college. It was a real tight group. It's messed up.''
The case against Mr Miller is detailed by a Florida newspaper, the Sun-Sentinel. Reporter Jon Burstein telephoned Mr Miller in Thailand on news of the issuing of the arrest warrant.
Mr Miller told him: "Everyone thinks I'm living the life of Riley and that's not true. I've lost everything. I've lost my savings. I'm on the skids."
He said he was scammed out of "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in Thailand and has remained here since February 2009 because he did not want to risk losing property he hopes to develop on Phuket.
Mr Miller said that he was attempting to cut losses and to move forward with the condo project: "I'm trying to rebuild something that's been taken away. I'm trying to make a really bad thing right."
Alleged victims tell a different story. Miller faces a lawsuit filed by 18 investors who say they have been bilked of at least $2.2 million.
One woman told the newspaper in a video: ''He ripped off my kids, he ripped off myself, he ripped off my friends.''
Coral Springs police have been investigating him with more than 30 investors identified with total losses of up $5 million, Coral Springs Police Detective Robert Ames told the newspaper.