Arrests Made Following Police Operations
A Nigerian man and 13 Thais were arrested for their involvement in a romance scam gang that defrauded victims of approximately 800 million baht (around $24 million) over three years. The arrests took place after police conducted operations across seven provinces in Thailand.
Crime Suppression Division (CSD) police teams raided 14 locations, seizing numerous items including mobile phones, bank account books, computers, and Chanel bags.
The suspects were arrested after a victim filed a complaint with the CSD police last year, reporting a loss of over 1 million baht in a romance scam.
The Scam Tactics
The modus operandi of the gang involved using fake profiles on social media, impersonating attractive foreign women. In this case, the scammer posed as an American female soldier based in Syria. The scammer engaged in conversations with the victim, establishing trust by professing love and sharing plans to visit Thailand.
Once trust was established, the scammer claimed to have sent valuable parcels to the victim, which were held up at the airport due to taxes. The victim was coerced into paying the taxes, with promises of reimbursement.
To further deceive the victim, a Thai accomplice posed as an airport staff member, using phone calls to extract more money from the victim for alleged tax and service fees. After obtaining the victim’s money, the scammers disappeared and could no longer be reached.
Investigation and Money Trail
CSD police tracked down the culprits, gathering leads indicating that the gang comprised both Thai and Nigerian nationals. The Nigerian man was identified as Ezeneche Uzochukwu Jerome, 45, who had been previously arrested in 2018 for similar offenses and resumed such activities after being released.
Investigators followed the money trail of Jerome and his gang, discovering that they would immediately transfer money swindled from their victims to overseas bank accounts. Between 2018 and 2021, around 800 million baht had been funneled into foreign accounts.
The CSD secured court approval to arrest Jerome and his 13 Thai accomplices. All were held in CSD police custody for legal action.
Prevalence of Romance Scams
Romance scams have become increasingly common in the digital age, with criminals taking advantage of online platforms to prey on vulnerable individuals seeking companionship. Victims often find themselves emotionally and financially drained, with little recourse to recover their losses.
Authorities continue to work on raising awareness and educating the public about the dangers of online scams, urging individuals to be cautious when engaging with strangers on social media and online dating platforms.