BANGKOK (AP) — Thai police said Wednesday they busted an international gang that operated call centers to deceive older Americans into wiring them money, netting more than 3 billion baht ($87 million).
Police said they arrested 21 suspects Tuesday after raiding nine locations in four Thai provinces, seizing 162 bank accounts, 61 mobile phones, two cars, one gun, and multiple real estate properties. Another Thai suspect was arrested Wednesday. U.S. agents took part in the raids.
The suspects, including five Indian nationals and 15 Thais, have been charged with involvement in transnational crime, fraud by impersonating others, fraud of the people, inputting false information into computer systems that causes damage to others, money laundering and conspiring to launder money.
The scammers claimed to be law enforcement agents investigating money laundering and told victims their funds were suspicious so needed to be transferred to them to be verified, police said. In addition to that fairly common ruse, the suspects also hacked some victims’ computers, they said.
The mostly elderly victims included doctors, professors, dentists, army personnel, and businesspeople, police said.
Investigators went undercover to track the gang’s money and found it had been laundered through gold shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues in Chonburi province, 125 kilometers (78 miles) southeast of Bangkok. The area has long had a reputation for harboring members of foreign criminal gangs.
Police said the syndicate was led by Indians with assets hidden in Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates, Peru and Poland.
FBI and U.S. Secret Service agents alerted Thai police to the gang's activities after similar crimes were found to have caused over $3 billion in losses in some 72,000 cases in 2020-2021, police said.