National / Crime & Legal

Japanese police arrest 15 men over suspected large-scale phone scam in Thailand

Kyodo

Japanese police have arrested 15 suspects transported from Bangkok in connection with a large-scale phone scam involving what is believed to be hundreds victims.

The 15 Japanese men in their 20s to 50s arrested Friday are suspected of having called people across Japan from a rented luxury house in the Thai beach resort city of Pattaya.

The callers are believed to have told the victims they had failed to pay subscription fees for a website. They are suspected of swindling more than 200 people out of over ¥200 million in total

Three suspects have been identified as Yasutaka Toyama, 54, Ryu Iwamoto, 23, and Seiji Ikehara, 33.

Tokyo police have found that ¥70 million was fraudulently obtained by the group in at least 80 cases between January and March, they said.

Authorities also believe there are more suspects who instructed the 15 men to make phone calls.

The 15 were arrested as they attempted to board flights to Japan for allegedly scamming a Fukui Prefecture woman in her 50s, by sending her a phony email in late March that alleged she had failed to pay website subscription fees.

The woman purchased electronic gift certificates worth some ¥300,000 in line with the group’s instructions after responding to the email over the phone, according to the police.

The person who spoke to her pretended to be a customer service representative with a major online retailer, the police said.

The suspects were transported on two flights, which arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports, respectively, Friday afternoon.

Japanese investigators arrived in Thailand on Wednesday to take custody of the suspects from Thai authorities.

Thai police arrested the 15 men in March on suspicion of working illegally in the country. In a search of the house they were staying in, authorities seized some 50 phones that use voice over internet protocol, a method of transmitting sound data over the internet, as well as a scammer’s handbook on specific procedures used to trick people.

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