The Kratie Provincial Court on Thursday laid charges against five men who were arrested for posing as government officials and swindling more than 400 people out of about $2,000 by promising them titles for farmland in Snuol district, officials said.
Deputy provincial prosecutor Thuch Panhchak Santepheap said the court charged the men with fraud and unlawful interference in the discharge of public functions. “We already charged them,” he said, declining to comment further.
Police arrested the suspects in Snuol’s Pi Thnou commune on Monday morning, while they were collecting thumbprints from potential targets of their scam, according to district police chief Chan Sokim.
Mr. Sokim said the group was led by Chim Samnang, 54, from Preah Vihear province, who identified himself to his victims as “Excellency Kong Socheat.”
The police chief said the other four men had claimed to be the excellency’s subordinates. He identified them as Siv Sothorn, 33, a reporter for Morodok Techo News in Stung Treng province, and district residents Sai Yorng, 55; Ky Heng, 41; and Khat Le, 41.
“We arrested them because they were involved in cheating hundreds of people by [promising] to provide land to them in Snuol district,” he said. “They are not authorities, and they used fake documents to lie to the people.”
After arresting the five, Mr. Sokim said police confiscated their business cards, along with fake sample land titles and sub-decrees.
Police also seized a document from the men that listed their victims and how much they had paid, he said, adding that the list included a total of 409 families from Kratie, Tbong Khmum and Prey Veng provinces who had paid the suspects a total of about 8 million riel, or roughly $2,000.
Mr. Sokim said the men had been operating the alleged scam since August 7.
Provincial deputy police chief Oum Phy said police found out about the scheme when a group of Snuol residents filed a joint complaint.
“We arrested them based on one complaint from the local people who accused these men of cheating them,” he said, adding that the suspects told police that they would charge between 20,000 riel (about $5) and 100,000 riel (about $25) per land title.
Mr. Phy said police were investigating other people who may have been involved, but declined to provide details.
Kun Sophoan, chief of the provincial police’s minor crimes bureau, said the five suspects would be held at the provincial police headquarters overnight and sent to the provincial prison Friday.