Ho Chi Minh City police have detained a Chinese man who allegedly ran a telephone scam that swindled billions of dong from its Vietnamese victims.
Li Shi Min, 30, was arrested on August 24 at a hotel on Tan Binh District’s Hoang Viet Street, following the arrests of his two alleged Vietnamese accomplices.
Police said they launched their investigation of Min after receiving a victim complaint on August 20.
Tang Thi Thu Cuc told the police that someone phoned her claiming to be a police officer and said she was a suspect in a drug and money laundering investigation.
She was ordered to transfer VND300 million into a bank account controlled by the "investigators." Cuc notified the police after failing to recoup her money.
The account holder was identified as Huynh Thanh Phong, who told the police that he'd been hired by Huynh Thi Nhu Mai to open a debit card account for her under his name.
Mai admitted to the police that she asked relatives and friends to register multiple accounts for her, which she sold to Min for VND140 million in exchange for 80 debit cards.
From Mai, police tracked down Min at a hotel where they found a cache of cell phones and ATM cards.
The Chinese national confessed he'd used the cell phones to threaten random victims.
He always used a devices that masked the cell numbers with a number that traced back to an investigative government agency.
Min ordered his victims to transfer large sums of money into the dummy accounts Mai had sold him. He'd later use the ATM cards supplied by Mai to withdraw the funds.
Police found that Min had cheated many people out of between VND300 and VND870 million Dong apiece.
Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Thanh Nhan of the Ho Chi MInh City Police Department said many people have fallen victim to similar scams despite the fact that they've become increasingly common in Vietnam.
“The scammer often claims to be some police officer investigating a drug or money laundering case and orders the victim to transfer money into their accounts as part of the investigation,” he said.
HCMC police have convinced telecom firms to send text messages to their subscribers warning them about the scam.
So far, the city police have identified 104 victims of these scams. All told, they've been cheated out of more than VND21 billion ($991,000).
Police have investigated 11 cases and identified 55 people suspects, including 13 Taiwanese nationals.
Nearly VND5.9 billion has already been returned to victims.