Couple nabbed in B66m iPhone scam

A couple have been arrested for allegedly swindling more than 30 people out of 66 million baht through a cheap iPhone and iPad mini investment scam.

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Police apprehended Manas Chotikhan and his wife Bussarin Yeenode, both aged 31, outside an auto care centre in Soi Chokechai Si of Bangkok’s Lat Phrao district on Monday.

The couple, who run an auto service centre, were accused of deceiving people into transferring money into their bank accounts by promising they could supply them with iPhone 5s, iPad minis and other brand-name products at below market prices. 

The suspects would deliver the products as promised for the clients' first few orders, to convince them that they could generate large profits through resales. 

After that, they would stop supplying the goods ordered, keep the money, and could not be reached by phone, said  Crime Suppression Division (CSD) commander Pol Maj Gen Supisarn Phakdinaruenart.

Many on-sellers had fallen prey to the scam since last August and January. After the first deal they had ordered  large numbers of IPhones and tablets in the expectation of making high profits, and in the process had transferred millions of baht to the accused fraudsters.

One group of business partners had lost about 24 million baht in the scam, Pol Maj Gen Supisarn said. 

A police investigation found Mr Manas opened two bank accounts to receive money from their clients. The money paid in at the beginning would  be used to buy more products to be offered as a low-priced lure for their victims. 

Pol Maj Gen Supisarn said people who had complained about the delays in delivery of products accused Mr Mansa of threatening them in telephone conversations, saying he said he had a gun or he would send a hired gunman to hurt them. 

A 30-year-old woman, who asked not to be named, said she began to invest through Mr Manas and Ms Bussarin in August last year by purchasing five iPhone 5s for 12,000 baht each and resold them for 20,000 baht, making an 8,000 baht profit on each sale.

She and her friends later agreed to be business partners and invested together a totall of 24 million baht. The amount of goods delivered by the duo began to go "missing" in November and she could not contact them shortly after, prompting her and her friends to go to the police.      

“Public fraud is punishable by three years in prison. More people who have been deceived [by the suspects] are encouraged to file complaints with police and their cases will be treated separately,” Pol Maj Gen Supisarn said. 

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