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Thai police arrest scammers preying on older Americans


BANGKOK — Thai police announced on Wednesday they have busted a gang that operated call centers to trick elderly US citizens into transferring them money, netting more than 3 billion baht ($87 million).

Police said they had arrested 21 people in the syndicate after simultaneous raids at nine locations in four Thai provinces on Tuesday, seizing 162 bank accounts, 61 mobile phones, two cars, a gun and multiple properties. Another Thai suspect was arrested on Wednesday. American 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 impersonation, fraud of the people, entering false information into computer systems to harm others, money laundering and conspiracy to launder money.

In the scam, the perpetrators told their victims that they were law enforcement officers conducting a criminal investigation into money laundering and that their money was suspicious and thus needed to be handed over to them for verification, 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, military personnel and businessmen, police said.

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

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

FBI and US Secret Service agents alerted Thai police to the gang’s activities after it was found that similar crimes had caused more than $3 billion in losses in about 72,000 cases in 2020-2021, police said.

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