Five men who regularly masqueraded as members of the state security services to extort cash and belongings from civilians were arrested in Phnom Penh on Friday and Saturday, a police official said Monday.
Eng Sorphea, chief of the municipal police’s penal bureau, said the group had been operating a nighttime racket in which they dressed up as police and military officials and then stopped, threatened and stole from their unknowing victims.
“This group has been committing the crimes during the middle of the night, extorting and taking money from people who were leaving their workplace or entertainment venue,” Mr. Sorphea said, adding that the group carried all the tools of the trade, including handcuffs and weapons.
“They extorted materials including phones, cash, jewelry, and if the victims did not have money or jewelry but had a motorbike, they would [make the victim] pawn the motorbike and then release [the victim] immediately.”
According to a police report, the alleged scammers—Seng Vimol, 39; Khuon Thavrith, 23; Rith Rotha, 29; Pen Leakvuthyna, 23; and Khat Rith, 40—have been operating since at least November.
The report outlines a number of cases brought to police attention, including an incident on December 6, when a victim was pistol whipped and robbed by the group. Another case, on November 30, saw the victim forced to pawn his motorbike for $350 in cash, which was then appropriated by the alleged criminals.
Mr. Sorphea said the group operated primarily in Tuol Kok and Russei Keo districts, and that they were being questioned at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court Monday evening.
“They confessed that they had extorted from people two times and we have enough evidence to press charges against the accused,” he said.
“They extort weak people, including women and small people.”