“Disgraceful’ swindler jailed

PHUKET TOWN: A Phuket man who swindled tourists from nine countries out of a total of two million baht was a disgrace to Thailand, Pol Col Paween Pongsirin, Superintendent of Phuket Town Police Station, said yesterday. Phuket Provincial Court sentenced Saratthawat Tangsathaporn, 31, who once ran the Rose Diamond jewelry story in Patong, to 81 months in jail after he pleaded guilty to 11 counts of fraud. Saratthawat’s fraud was simple; he added digits to the payment amount on credit card payment slips of customers who bought items in his shop between January and April 1998. About 20 customers from Norway, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Australia, Japan and Britain were swindled. He was arrested in Phuket in 2001 but skipped bail and then tried to use powerful connections to avoid the charges, Col Paween said. Although in the end only Bangkok Bank lost money in the fraud, “they [the tourists] all went back to their home towns and cursed Thailand as a bad, dirty country, not good to visit,” Col Paween said. “I feel sad for our country.” Saratthawat was originally sentenced to 13½ years in jail, but this was halved by the court because he pleaded guilty. Police believe a gang with powerful connections may have been behind Saratthawat’s crimes. “He was not doing this all on his own,” Col Paween said. “I believe it was a gang and this gang had support so strong that even the law could not touch them.”

Phuket News
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