Six arrested in plot to extort voice-phishing ring

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Six arrested in plot to extort voice-phishing ring

The Gwangjin Police Precinct announced Tuesday that it had arrested six people last month on allegations of armed robbery and attempted murder in a shakedown gone awry.

The apprehended suspects include a Korean-Chinese individual surnamed Lee, 28, and a Taiwanese culprit surnamed Jang, 21, who along with their associates attempted to swindle a group of Chinese voice phishers.

Lee, Jang and four other accomplices were arrested as they were trying to flee the country. Officers also arrested three voice phishers in the incident on allegations of fraud and transporting stolen goods.

According to the authorities, Lee initially received a request from a Chinese voice-phishing ring to convert 940 million won ($844,562) in stolen cash into Chinese yuan - money that the gang had appropriated by impersonating legitimate businesses over the telephone to collect personal information and bank data from their victims.

However, the suspect reportedly decided to steal the money instead, reasoning that because the money had been poached illegally through voice phishing scams, the ring would not be able to report the theft to authorities.

In return for 100 million won, Jang agreed to help Lee steal the cash and invited four Taiwanese associates to Korea to assist them in the scheme.

Armed with a toy revolver, a hatchet and a variety of other weapons, Lee and his accomplices headed to a hotel around 6 p.m. on May 24, in Seoul, where Lee planned to meet up with one of the members of the voice-phishing ring, whose identity the police did not reveal.

Lee arrived at the hotel room before the unidentified voice phisher and called up the four armed Taiwanese associates. The unarmed phisher, who had anticipated a simple hand-off, was caught off guard by the group and sustained injuries to the head, chest and thighs during an ensuing scuffle.

A second voice-phishing associate, stationed outside the room, later called authorities to report the incident. Officers were immediately dispatched to the scene, where they checked CCTV footage to pursue Lee and the other suspects.

By that time, Lee had already left the hotel and hidden the money at a relative’s house in Ansan, Gyeonggi. He had successfully boarded a plane at Incheon International Airport before he was caught by police prior to take-off.

Jang and the four other accomplices were also apprehended at the airport while waiting to board a flight headed for Taiwan.

Both members in the voice-phishing ring were also apprehended, and police announced Tuesday that they had since arrested a third phisher present at the time of the incident.

Once in custody, authorities communicated with Lee’s father to locate and confiscate the stolen cash, which authorities were able to trace back to a commercial bank based on the bands wrapped around the cash bundles.

“We found two people who lost 22 million won and 40 million won apiece in the voice-phishing scheme,” said a source from the police. “It appears the remainder was similarly scammed through voice phishing.”

BY YOON JUNG-MIN [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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