BANGKOK - Japanese police investigators arrived in Thailand on Tuesday to probe a phone scam in which more than 200 people in Japan are believed to have been swindled out of some ¥220 million.
Fifteen Japanese men, arrested by Thai police on allegations they worked in the country without permission, are suspected of targeting people in Japan, particularly those who are retired and living alone, from a rented luxury house in the beach resort of Pattaya.
Thai police have learned that nine of them spent up to a year in the Philippines, on the island of Cebu, shortly before moving to Thailand, suggesting they might have engaged in scamming activities from that country, too.
They all left the Philippines around the same time late last year, returned to Japan temporarily and then entered Thailand.
One of them had been arrested in Japan in the past for alleged involvement in fraud.
Japanese investigators said they will gather information on what the men have told Thai police, and from the contents of documents confiscated in a raid on March 29, which included what is believed to be a manual for how to carry out the scam.
Thai police also confiscated some 50 IP phones in the house search.
The suspects are believed to have called people all over Japan, saying they had failed to pay subscription fees for a website, and made them purchase electronic money to swindle them out of the cash.
Japanese police plan to arrest the 15 suspects after they are expelled from Thailand, the investigators said.