Police identified the Nigerians as Okwutor Peter, 29, and Jeremiah Ndidi, 27. The Nigerians arrived in Thailand in 2014 on tourist visas and their documents had expired, Provincial Police Region 4 chief Maj Gen Jatupon Parnraksa said yesterday (Nov 24).
Two of the women suspects, identified as Jaerati Saisin and Nattacha Thongbai, both 30, from Rayong and Yasothon, were married to the Nigerians. The third woman was a 34-year-old Bangkok native, Ketsara Marksiri.
Police arrested the Nigerians and their Thai accomplices at a condominium in Bangkok and seized 20 bank books and ATM cards with transactions totalling more than B50mn. They also confiscated 15 mobile phones, a laptop computer and 50 other valuable items.
“The suspects tried to destroy the bank books and other documents linking to their victims during the arrest,” Maj Gen Jatupon said.
Police were acting on a complaint filed in Udon Thani province last month by the gang’s latest victim who was a 45-year-old rubber plantation owner who had been swindled out of B500,000.
Maj Gen Jatupon said the Nigerians used a familiar trick of claiming to be good-looking, white and well-to-do. They developed close ties with women seeking rich foreign husbands via Facebook or online chat programmes, and proposed marriage.
They would then claim that they were detained by airport and customs authorities for bringing in cash that was more than the legal limit, and asked the victims to transfer money to them to pay for tax on the cash.
According to the complaint, the gang used a Facebook account with the name “Bush Bush” and a fake photo. The account holder claimed to be an engineer in a global company who wanted to settle down and marry a woman in Thailand. They talked with the victims for six months, with the help of an online translation service, and arranged a meeting with her in Thailand.
The Udon Thani victim was duped into transferring money to her fake prospective husband twice after the man told her he was detained at Phuket airport and later at Don Mueang for the same reason.
Maj Gen Jatupon said three women, all aged over 45, in the Northeast had filed complaints with police for being lured by the online romance scam since last month.
“The gang spent an average of six months on online chats with each victim. Checks on the seized bank books show each transaction from the victims ranged between B50,000 and B200,000,” Maj Gen Jatupon said.
A further investigation indicated that Mr Peter and Mr Ndidi were part of a larger Nigerian gang operating an online romance scam led by a Nigerian mafia man identified only Yusuf, who police suspect may still be in Thailand.
The Nigerian suspects would get 70 per cent of the money they deceived from each victim while the rest went to Mr Yusuf, the Provincial Police Region 4 chief said.
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