Police on Monday were searching for a 28-year-old fraud suspect, who was on Saturday confronted at a Nakhon Si Thammarat hotel by victims whom she had allegedly duped in a gold-ornament pyramid scheme, after some 20 people filed a formal complaint against her on Sunday.
She had fled the scene on Saturday after faking a seizure and being taken to hospital for treatment when the victims challenged her.
Suspect Nichanipa Chophot had allegedly lured many victims from across the country via Facebook and Line applications to join the pyramid scheme, which reportedly preyed on people and resulted in some Bt100 million in financial damages.
As they filed a complaint with police, the victims’ representatives – Nahareuthai Rawangpai, 31, and Nipada Wongpakdee, 28, whose group suffered at least Bt20 million in losses – said that Nichanipa had claimed to have a connection in the gold trade association and to be a major shareholder at a Nakhon Si Thammarat gold shop franchise.
She persuaded them that these connections enabled her to obtain gold ornaments for sale to them at a very cheap price of Bt10,000-Bt13,000 per 15.2 grams, compared to the current market price of nearly Bt20,000.
Nichanipa also encouraged them to buy a larger amount each time and find more members to join the purchase scheme, they said.
It was not until June to early this month that the suspect had started to fall behind in delivering the gold, the representatives explained.
She told the victims that her connection had required gold to be ordered in a larger overall amount to benefit from the lower prices, so she had to wait for more members to place orders first.
When they later were unable reach her at all, and her Facebook page was closed, the victims realised they had been duped.
The group’s own inquiry then found many more victims of the scam across the country, suffering losses of up to Bt100 million combined, they said.
Their probe led them to locate Nichanipa at a Muang Nakhon Si Thammarat hotel, where they confronted her on Saturday.
However, she pretended to have a seizure, prompting them to call for a rescue foundation’s ambulance to take her to hospital.
By the time the victims got to the hospital, the suspect had already sneaked out, so they decided to take the documents and belongings she had left behind at the hospital in order to file a fraud complaint with the police.
Previously, the Nakhon Si Thammarat gold shops’ association had warned people about fraudsters who bought gold from their shops at a normal price – by using one victim’s order-placement money to buy gold ornaments to supply to another – and then have the victim collect the ornaments at a gold shop, in order to boost their credibility.
When they earned the trust of victims, who then placed even larger amounts of money for the goods, they closed all contact channels and fled, the association warned.