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Handcuffed accused file through a luxury mansion on Phuket today

Five-Star Phuket Dial-a-Scam Escape Bid Foiled

Friday, August 7, 2009
Crime Scene Photo Album Above

A DRAMATIC escape attempt by the leader of a gang of alleged international telephone scammers was foiled by Phuket police this afternoon.

The man tried to flee across the grounds of a luxury two-storey mansion with a large swimming pool in Phuket's five star heartland, which police say was headquarters for a massive international fraud.

Arrested in raids on six up-market homes around the island were 30 men and 10 women, all Chinese nationals, and all illegally in Thailand, police say.

Using scores of telephones and the Internet, members of the gang called people in mainland China and Taiwan and followed a variety of scripts to fool them into shifting large sums of money into the gang's bank accounts, acording to officers.

The gang impersonated lawyers, policemen, bank managers and government authorities to try to persuade people to part with their money.

Police estimated the gang defrauded those they called of at least one billion baht in the two months that they were operating from Phuket.

With the headquarters in the 100,000 baht a month mansion in Bang Tao, the gang also had three ''branches'' in homes in Phuket City, and two in Kamala.

Police estimated they spent five million baht each month on rent, food, and large telephone bills.

A central ground floor room in the mansion appeared to be an operations hq and call centre, containing scores of telephones, mobiles, and many passports.

Police say they also found two grams of yah-ice, drug implements, and 200,000 baht in cash. There were also 1000 bank books and ATM cards.

All of the accused were assembled at the mansion this afternoon as police began a more detailed interrogation to establish the extent of the gang's activities.

Police had the gang under surveillance for two weeks before making simultaneous raids on all six premises at 10.30am today.

The gang, police said, had previously operated in Chiang Mai, then moved to Pattaya before coming to Phuket in June.

Police Major General Panya Maman, Deputy Commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau, said the gang preferred tourist destinations because the telephone services were usually better.

It was easier for them to operate and move freely without raising suspicion with so many expats on the island, he said.

''We have been after these people for quite some time now. The full extent of the fraud should emerge once we have the chance to talk in detail with the suspects,'' he added.

''It's surprising to think how this kind of fraud could be carried out at such a distance.''

He said much of the money from the fraud was converted into real estate in Thailand, using Thai nominees to buy properties, then the properties were later sold and converted to cash.

Seventy police came to Phuket today to help local police make the raids.

Officers were planning to hold the gang in three separate police stations overnight pending further investigations, to be led by Phuket Police Chief Major General Pekad Tantipong.

Earlier Report

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