POLICE YESTERDAY definitively cleared a 24-year-old woman of any involvement in a high-profile romance scam that cheated social media users as four other suspects were accused of stealing her identity.
National police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda said a thorough investigation into information provided by Nicha Kiatthanapaiboon concerning many issues, such as her missing identity cards and Bt6 million in her bank accounts, had determined she was not involved in the scam.
Authorities had previously expressed doubts whether Nicha was the victim or accessory to the online scam.
Earlier this month, Nicha publicly complained that a gang had stolen her identity card and used it to open accounts at many banks that were subsequently used in the scam.
About Bt10 million reportedly had circulated in the accounts.
Chakthip yesterday dismissed earlier doubts about why Nicha had lost identity cards on separate occasions, which had initially led to suspicions that she had deliberately let criminals use her identity.
“Nicha lost her cards twice, with the latest time at a convenience store. One of the detained suspects, identified as Paveena Singwiboon, fooled the store’s staff into believing that it was her card, took it and used it to open bank accounts,” Chakthip said.
Paveena and her accomplices then opened a total of 10 bank accounts at eight banks, Chakthip said. He also referred to Bt6 million linked to Nicha’s own account, saying it had been transferred to the account long before she lost her identity cards.
Four suspects, including a Cameroon national, have been taken into police custody for allegedly operating the scam. They are Cameroon man Ayak Simon Eko and three Thais – Paveena, Jerati Saisin and Promporn Pongcharoenkunakorn.
“Eko had the duty to withdraw money from an ATM, while Jerati opened three bank accounts, Paveena five accounts and Promporn two accounts,” he said.
An arrest warrant for Nicha had been issued in Tak province for alleged fraud after a woman alerted police that she had been fooled into depositing money into a bank account under Nicha’s name.
Tak police issued the warrant after Nicha failed to show up in response to two earlier summonses. When she went to Tak on January 5, she was arrested, denied bail and jailed for three nights.
Yesterday a Tak provincial police chief said all charges would be dropped because Nicha had been cleared.
She can ask for the return of her Bt80,000 bail deposit and is eligible for compensation.