Pattaya Daily News

26 July 2010 :: 16:07:28 pm 15137

Merciless Scam Involving High Level Officials: Piya’s Story

Recently, by way of investigating a distressing case of car theft, PDN discovered a massive vehicle sales scam being operated in the Pattaya area. Apparently, a consortium of businessmen are buying up severely damaged vehicles, and thus having the respective registration plates and licence books, they then get their extensive team of car thieves (at least one of whom appears to be a care salesman) to steal cars and substitute the ownership details with those of the written-off ones.
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The appalling fact about this scam is that it is being perpetrated against the poorest of the Thai poor. The situation is considerably exacerbated because these hapless victims then find themselves in illegal possession of stolen vehicles, which are then retrieved by the police. Their debts, however, are not canceled, and they are consequently put in fear of their lives, as their unscrupulous and callous creditors, invariably loan sharks, ramp up the pressure to repay.

This sorry state of affairs came to light when, on 2 October 2009, I was contacted by one of the victims of the scam, a Mr. Sohn (alias), who requested that PDN intercede with the police to attempt to recover two pickups which had been stolen from his son, Mr. Piya (alias), two nights before.

Messrs. Piya & Sohn’s Backgrounds

The two victims came to PDN’s office to recount their story. Apparently, 60-year-old, Mr. Sohn, and 27-year-old Mr. Piya, originated from Bang Pakong, Chacherngsao, but have been resident in Pattaya for the past 10 years, operating a pickup-hire business together. Mr. Piya also worked for the Big Boy Furniture Store, whose boss had kindly stood guarantor for Mr. Piya to buy the two pickups in question, on finance.

The Pickups

The first pickup, a blue Mitsubishi, had been bought on finance almost 10 years ago through an intermediary, Mr. Art (alias), a well known Pattaya used car salesman/broker. Mr. Piya said he had made an initial down payment of Bt30,000 and subsequently agreed to pay the remainder in monthly installments. However, due to cash-flow problems, he had to re-financed the vehicle again through Mr. Art.

Wishing to buy a second pickup to be used by his father in the family pickup rental business, Mr. Piya said he had approached Mr. Art once more to aid with finance, who accordingly agreed to assist.

The Problems Begin

Apparently, the next call for Mr. Art’s services came when Mr. Piya’s brother-in-law from Bangkok asked if the broker could also obtain finance for him to buy a car. Once again, Mr. Art helped out by applying for finance, but this time with the proviso that one of the two pickups should be used as collateral until the financing was set up, due to the brother-in-law wanting to take the new car back to his home in Bangkok.  Mr. Art was duly given the keys to Mr. Sohn’s new pickup, which he then took to an alleged friend’s garage in Krating Lai.

Two weeks later, after being informed that his brother-in-law’s credit check had been approved and finance granted, Mr. Piya duly phoned Mr. Art who told him to retrieve Mr. Sohn’s pickup from his friend’s garage at 8pm on 29 September, 2009. Arriving at the garage, Mr Piya noticed that Mr. Art had an inordinate amount of keys on a number of key rings, but was swiftly able to identify the correct set of keys, one of four identical ones, which he then gave to Mr. Piya. Thinking no more of the co-incidence and pleased to have the vehicle back, Mr. Piya then drove home and parked the pickup behind the other, in front of the Big Boy Furniture Store.

Theft Discovered & Reported

Waking up the following morning at 5am, Mr. Piya was alarmed to discover that both pickups were missing and, after checking that his father hadn’t taken them, he informed the police, who came shortly after. They told him they suspected someone close, who intimately knew Mr. Piya’s routine and the windows of opportunity, advising him to report the thefts to the main Pattaya Police Station, which he duly did.

Pol.Lt.Col.Worrawit Junlawanit, who took Mr. Piya’s statement, promised to visit the crime scene the following day, but never turned up. Concerned at the delay, Mr. Sohn then personally contacted Pol. Lt. Col. Junlawanit for a progress report, who apologised, saying he’d definitely come at 10am on 2 October 2009. Frustrated, however, Mr. Sohn decided at this point to ask PDN for help in solving the case.

Pattaya Daily News Turns Sleuth

The PDN editor-in-chief arrived at the scene before the police investigator and proceeded to take pictures of the family home (a pitifull shack) and the furniture store, as well as quizzing some of the local residents, particularly those that may have witnessed the thefts.

Conveniently, Mr. Yai (alias), an elderly motorbike taxi driver whose station was close by, had seen a man with an ignition key, on the morning of the theft, about to take Mr. Sohn’s white pickup. Mr. Yai said he’d challenged the individual, answering Mr. Art’s description, who had ignored him, but as he’d previously seen him in Mr. Piya’s company, he wasn’t apprehensive. Going away on a job, Mr. Yai returned later to notice that both pickups had gone, presumably having been hired out. Having had the interview recorded, Mr. Yai was then asked if he would bear witness in any forthcoming trial, to which he agreed.  All concerned now felt that the guilty party, Mr. Art, had been successfully identified.

When Pol. Lt. Col. Junlawanit eventually arrived, he was somewhat surprised to see the editor-in-chief, with whom he was familiar, having previously shared investigations with her. That notwithstanding, he then collected the local Esso garage’s CCTC footage, as well as details of Mr. Piya and Art’s dealings, before  returning to the station.

Further investigation by the editor-in-chief of vehicle hire operators in the vicinity, revealed that not only had most bought their vehicles on finance, but that vehicle hire thefts were currently rampant in Pattaya, virtually 10 per day.

The Case Hits an Impasse

Despite the perpetrator having been identified, no action was taken against him; a fact possibly explained by the editor-in-chief’s discovery of a close friendship between Mr. Art and a high ranking police officer.

After the frustrating passage of a further 6 months, with absolutely no progress in the case, the editor-in-chief and Mr. Piya felt they had no option but to take the case higher, by reporting it to the Chonburi Region 2 Police.  The Chonburi Commissioner proved extremely helpful and within three days a warrant was issued for Mr. Art’s arrest.

However, a further few weeks of silence followed, so, being a regular visitor to the police station, the editor-in-chief took the opportunity to inquire as to the case’s progress from Pol. Lt. Col. Junlawanit and was told that Mr. Art would be surrendered by his boss in the next few days; an outcome she found heartening.

Piya & Family Contemplate Suicide

Appreciating the family’s dire straits, still having to pay off the finance on both vehicles, despite being deprived of their use, the editor-in-chief took it upon herself to aid the family by finding Mr. Piya’s wife work in a friend’s massage parlour. However, she was extremely alarmed one night to receive a distraught phone call from Mr. Piya’s wife plaintively informing her that her whole family were contemplating mass suicide because of loan shark menaces. Happily, the editor-in-chief prevailed upon them not to take such extreme action and that she would accompany Mr. Piya to the police station the following day to report the loan sharks’ intimidation and to see how the case was progressing.

Conclusion

Thankfully, a very much alive Mr. Piya kept his rendezvous, despite a limp; ample evidence of the loan sharks’ brutality. During their ride to seek justice, the editor-in-chief’s heartfelt sympathies were further aroused, as Mr. Piya valiantly complained “It’s a lot of money that they stole from me; represented by the two trucks. Even though their value is only Bt70-80,000, I am paying over Bt200,000 in finance. I will fight to the end. I want to see if our law is still fair. Rich or poor, we should be treated the same.” The editor-in-chief, in turn, said “I admired his determination and was proud to see a working class Thai man with this very rare attitude towards the Thai judicial system and democracy as a whole.“

Some satisfaction was derived later, at the police station, by Pol. Lt. Col. Junlawanit’s announcement that Mr. Art had finally been arrested and placed in police custody. He said he had, however, been given bail, and any final judicial satisfaction would have to endure the laborious due processes of the Thai judicial system.

The editor-in-chief would like to express her gratitude for the infinite patience and help that Pol. Lt. Col. Junlawanit has extended throughout the course of this case, particularly towards Mr. Piya, himself. She also encourages him to continue his sympathetic approach to policing and be a steadfast rock of solace and consideration to all the needy folk of Pattaya.

Note:

Mr. Sohn and Piya are but the tip of the iceberg in this merciless scam, perpetrated upon the salt of the Thai earth. Yet another hapless victim, Mr. Wichai, came to PDN’s attention recently. In his case, he took out a bank loan for Bt95,000, using his land as collateral, to buy a pickup, which has subsequently been stolen. He is now in the unenviable situation of having to forfeit his land, being unable to repay the bank loan on his construction worker’s pay of Bt185 per day.

PDN TEAM
news@pattayadailynews.com

Reporter : Sirithanon   Photo : PDN staff   Category : Editorial

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