The owners now fear that the cars and vans have been sold in other provinces.
One of the rental operators, Ms Nitiya, owner of Tai Rai Home company in Cherng Talay, told reporters yesterday evening (Sept 26) that she usually only rented cars out to foreigners, but due to the COVID economic crisis was forced to broaden her customer range.
“We usually are open to foreigners living in Phuket looking to rent a car, at daily and monthly rates, with most of the cars rented being Fortuners,” she said.
She said that her company was contacted by one of the gang members who came into her office talking about “big business” by telling her staff that they would rent a car to do business and contact people in Phuket about growing cannabis plantations.
“The first time they rented one car, and three months later they rented another car,” she said.
“Normally, I would not rent cars to Thai people. However, due to the COVID-19 epidemic situation, our business came to a halt and we had to start renting cars to Thai people,” Ms Nitiya said.
“We rented the cars on a monthly basis, at starting prices ranging from B15,000-30,000. For the first two months, they paid as usual. But when entering the third month, we were told they had tried to pay but claimed that the account had a problem and they could not transfer the money.
“The account was correct, but they kept claiming there were problems, and then they started avoiding calls and did not call back. When we did contact them, they said they would be able to pay at a later date, but when that due date came they did not come to pay and did not answer the phone,” Ms Nitiya said.
Ms Nitiya said she had tracked down one of the gang, Sarayut Rattanaburi, to his house, but found the home “locked up tight”.
She spoke to a neighbour who said that he knew his neighbour was a scammer who had already taken the car to sell in another province, Ms Nitiaya said.
“Now I still have to bear the burden of paying B17,000 per month for one of the cars, but I have now been deceived out of two cars which will be sold,” she said.
Ms Nitiya said that at the beginning of September she had filed a formal complaint for police to track down Sarayut and have him arrested and prosecuted.
She had also informed the local village headman
“I wonder why there is so much evidence and they still can’t arrest the participants in this scam, and I have to complain to the press to help present the news,” she said.
Another car rental operator duped out of vehicles by Sarayut was Ms Neeranuch, who operates Best Travel Club Company in Pa Khlok.
Ms Neeranuch had rented four vans to the group.
“Now I still have to pay almost B20,000 per month in installments for the four vans, that’s almost B100,000 per month,” she said.
“I have filed a complaint, but the case has not progressed, so I have to complain to the media and there are still many car rental companies who have been scammed by this gang,” Ms Neeranuch said.
“They have been deceived, rented their cars out and not had their cars returned, and filed a complaint, but it’s like at the beginning, nothing has progressed, everyone has suffered a lot and had to bear the burden of debt during this time with a bad economy, when there are no tourists due to the impact of COVID-19,” she added.