Nicha Kiartthanapaiboon, 24, an office worker, is being investigated by police after she claimed her ID card was stolen by fraudsters to open bank accounts to receive money wired by its victims.
Lt Gen Surachet Hakphan, deputy chief of the Tourism Police Bureau, said yesterday (Jan 15) that police were trying to find out everything about the alleged contact a relative of Ms Nicha had with a foreign man called Simon, initially thought to be a Nigerian national.
There is evidence the man holds a Cameroon passport although he could hold dual nationality, the deputy commissioner said.
Police were examining the relative’s money trail and his phone records.
He said an extensive investigation revealed the gang stole identities for use in a romance scam, not a call centre scam as earlier believed.
Unlike call centre gangs which dupe victims by phone, romance gangs typically contact their victims via social media, mostly Facebook. However, both employ Thais to steal people’s IDs and use them to open bank accounts to receive money from victims.
Lt Gen Surachet said police were looking to see if Ms Nicha’s relative was linked to any romance scam which would help determine if Ms Nicha was an ID theft scapegoat.
Ms Nicha has told police her purse containing her ID card went missing on Oct 6 last year after which her card was used by others to open bank accounts.
Police identified Pawina Singwibun as the woman who allegedly used Ms Nicha’s identity to open the accounts.
Yesterday, police also accused another woman, Cherati Saisin, of being another ID thief in Ms Nicha’s case.
Despite the two suspects having been identified, Maj Gen Surachet said it is still too early to tell whether Ms Nicha is innocent.
According to an initial investigation, the suspects are believed to work for the mystery African. Pawina allegedly opened five accounts in Ms Nicha’s name while Cherati was accused of opening four others.
In total, nine accounts were opened under Ms Nicha’s name at seven different banks.
Pawina told police she was paid B10,000 by the African man to open the accounts.
The woman is now in custody facing charges of theft, document forgery and using other persons’ ID cards without their permission, deputy police spokesman Col Kritsana Phatthanacharoen said.
The man known as Simon has been detained by police for questioning.
Ms Nicha will undergo a lie detector test next month after police discovered she had applied for replacement ID cards many times in the past.
She says she is willing to take the test.
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