Samut Prakan, the 7th of October 2010: At approximately 1:30am on Thursday last week, Major general Chisanupong Yooktatat (Samut Prakan Police Commissioner) and his team revealed the arrest of Ms. Kontanun (AKA, Sao Billapat) in the central Thai province of Samut Prakan.
Ms. Kontanun was arrested over her alleged involvement in a social networking scam, propagated by her South African boyfriend and his associates. She was arrested at her residence in Rachathewa, Banglee, Samut Prakan, in possession of 4 mobile phones, a notebook computer and 3 ATM cards from the Ayudhya, TMB and Siam Commercial Banks.
Maj-Gen Yooktatat revealed the arrest was a result of investigations into the intricate scam being conducted from an overseas location using social networking platforms, such as Facebook and MSN messenger. At present over 100 cases pertaining to the scam are suspected to have netted the perpetrators an estimated Bt20 million.
In brief, Maj-Gen Yooktatat explained that the victims (Thai women) were deceived into forming strong, supposedly genuine, relationships with the South African scammers using various social networking sites. Having established the victims trust over several months the perpetrators wrote of an impending holiday to Thailand, asking the women to meet them at the airport.
The victims allege that upon arriving at the airport their internet companion had not arrived, the women explain in all cases that a phone call was then received from people claiming to be from the Thai Customs Department. The operator explained to the victims that their friend had been detained by Customs for arriving illegally, not possessing required documents or not qualifying for entry into the Kingdom.
Following the lengthy and in most cases believable conversation the operator would declare that the mater involving their friend could be resolved upon the transferral of between Bt10,000-50,000 into a Thai bank account. The women all report that they transferred the money in good faith, but that the number which had called, and/or their internet companion could not be contacted again, forcing them to report the matter to authorities.
During resultant investigations, officers ascertained that the accounts being used to propagate the scam in Thailand belonged to three Thai women, Ms. Amornrat Pol-inn, Ms. Walaiporn Pongprayoon and Ms. Supaporn Suttimas. All three women are still fugitive, with police speculating that they may be operating from outside the Kingdom.
Ms. Kontanun was apprehended after she was found to be the operative who withdrew money from an ATM in Malaysia on more than 50 occasions. Her last withdrawal, at an ATM in Bangplee, Samut Prakan on the 5th of October led authorities to her arrest.
Under interrogation, Ms. Kontanun informed officers that she is an employee at a beer bar in Pattaya, admitting to having had a South African boyfriend named Prince (unknown last name) who she had since separated from several months ago.
Ms. Kontanun acknowledged that she had travelled to Malaysia several times to meet her boyfriend, withdrawing money from the stated accounts at his behest. Allegedly, she was given between Bt1,000-2,000 for performing the withdrawals. In total, she admitted to withdrawing money from the three accounts given to her by her boyfriend an act that she performed on over 100 occasions in both Thailand and Malaysia.
Despite her participation in the scam and the information she has detailed to police investigating the operation, Ms. Kontanun maintains that she has no knowledge of the social networking ploy, the owners of the three bank accounts or information pertaining to her alleged ex-boyfriends dealings.
Officers, understandably reluctant to believe Ms. Kontanun’s story, have remanded her in custody as a suspect in the illegal operation while investigations into the other members involved in the gang are ongoing.