Fraudsters posed as officials to rob foreigners

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Fraudsters posed as officials to rob foreigners

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency announced Thursday that they arrested a group of scammers who posed as immigration officials to extort money and goods from undocumented foreigners.

The scheme started on Nov. 26 last year when three men, disguised as officials from the Seoul Immigration Office, conducted a fake crackdown at a massage parlor in Yangcheon District, western Seoul, and rounded up five Thai employees.

Instead of being taken to the immigration office, the five women were kidnapped and confined in a nearby apartment for over 18 hours. The scammers took 10.8 million won ($9,500) worth of cash and jewelry from them.

Afterwards, the suspects guided the victims to Incheon International Airport, where all five victims were forced on flights back to Thailand. The plane tickets were bought by the suspects themselves.

The police later disclosed that the victims believed that the suspects were officials and thus followed their orders, as they were afraid they would not be able to return to Korea.

According to the Ministry of Justice, from October last year through March this year, undocumented foreigners will be allowed to return to their home countries without any legal penalties and can return to Korea.

However, foreigners who are caught after March this year will not be allowed to return to Korea for the next 10 years.

The victims assumed that they were being escorted back to their home country because of this rule.

“One of the five suspects was a [Thai] colleague of the Thai victims and was living with one of the other suspects,” said a police officer in charge of the investigation. “[The suspects] used inside information given to them by their Thai accomplice to commit the crime.”

The accomplice provided the information that the Thai woman were overstaying their visas in Korea and that they had a substantial amount of cash on hand since the massage parlor paid them in cash.

The Thai accomplice was sent back to Thailand on Jan. 16.

The police added that the suspects were able to concoct an elaborate plan because they were familiar with the immigration crackdown process. Their familiarity came from their background as brokers who specialized in finding jobs for undocumented foreigners.

The group created fake immigration official IDs and related documents to convince the foreigners that they really were from the immigration office.

“Based on how meticulous the suspects were, we expect that this was not their first crime and will be looking into whether there were any other victims,” said the police officer.

BY PARK HAE-LEE, JEONG JU-WON [jeong.juwon@joongang.co.kr]

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