Couple caught for extorting money from graft suspects

Crime Suppression Division police announce the arrest of a couple wanted for impersonating anti-graft officials to dupe executives of local bodies and schools into transferring money to them in exchange for clearing alleged graft cases. (Photo supplied via Wassayos Ngamkham)

A couple have been arrested in Nakhon Ratchasima for impersonating anti-corruption officials to extort money from executives of local administrative bodies and schools by promising to help them clear graft cases.

Crime Suppression Division police arrested Kaew Prasomphon, 37, of Rayong and his wife Arunrat Wangprom, also 37, of Nong Bua Lam Phu, at a rented house in Muang district of Nakhon Ratchasima province on Wednesday.

Mr Kaew was wanted on an arrest warrant issued by the Nang Rong provincial court for colluding in impersonating a state official and defamation. Ms Arunrat was wanted on an arrest warrant issued by the Chiang Mai provincial court for colluding in fraud and impersonating another person, said Pol Col Arun Warichasrisukanya, superintendent of the CSD sub-division 2.

Pol Col Arun and Sutthee Boonmee, director of  the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC)’s  information and special affairs office led the raid to arrest the couple.

The arrests came after Mr Kaew and Ms Arunrat had made random phone calls to executives of local administration organisations and schools across the country who were under investigation for alleged wrongdoing or whose assets were under scrutiny, said Pol Col Arun.

The duo claimed to be NACC officials tasked with the investigation, and told the executives that they could help them clear the cases -- in exchange for cash. Numerous executives were convinced by the couple’s stories, said the CSD sub-division 2 chief, and made money transfers ranging between 20,000 and 200,000 baht.

A CSD investigation found that the suspects’ actions had cost their victims more than five million baht in total. The couple had previously been arrested for the same offences but were released on bail and later freed.

Arunrat Wangprom, 37, of Nong Bua Lam Phu, is shown in an arrest warrant for impersonating an anti-graft official. (Photo supplied via Wassayos Ngamkham)

The couple confessed to committing the crimes to support their gambling habits, said Pol Col Arun. They also told police that they spent money on meals with senior officials in a bid to boost their image when preying on victims.

Mr Suthee said the suspects had been committing the offences since August 2015.  Police had earlier arrested Mr Kaew, but he was released on bail -- and went on to repeat the offences.

Mr Kaew would first look for information about legal cases from websites that disclosed names of executives under investigation. He would then phone the victims and offer to provide help, said the director of the NACC’s information and special affairs office.

The couple would ask their victims to transfer money to bank accounts of people they hired. At least 30 people had fallen victim to the scam, said Mr Suthee.

Criminal records showed that Mr Kaew had faced 10 arrest warrants for similar offences while his wife had previously faced one arrest warrant.

CSD police sent Mr Kaew to Satuk police station in Buri Ram, while Ms Arunrat was sent to Mae Jo police station in Chiang Mai.


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