Police arrested a man Thursday for allegedly cheating hundreds of families out of a total of nearly $500,000 dollars in Svay Rieng and Prey Veng provinces, local officials said.
Huot Samrit, 36, was arrested in Svay Rieng’s Romeas Hek district after 622 families filed a complaint last week with the Svay Rieng Provincial Court, alleging he had swindled them out of $457,950 in two separate schemes, according to district police chief Sam Sam Ol.
According to the complaint, two years ago Mr. Samrit approached hundreds of villagers in both Romeas Hek district and Mesang district in Prey Veng province, telling them if they invested in his eponymous company, they would receive 8 percent interest on their investment, Mr. Sam Ol said.
In Mesang district’s Chres commune alone, 12 families complained that Mr. Samrit cheated them out of a total of $76,000, said commune chief Nuon Kon. Villagers were told they could invest any amount over $10, but if they invested $3,000 or more, they would also get a motorbike.
“I almost got cheated too,” Mr. Kon said. “Huot Samrit came to try to persuade me to invest many times, but my son reminded me about cheaters.”
Yuth Soeu, the chief of Chres commune’s Chres village, said when several men who claimed to represent the Huot Samrit Company came to the village on January 1, they convinced him and a friend to invest $1,000 in the company. From the time they invested, Mr. Soeu and his friend received $80 in interest each month from an agent representing the company. But in September, the interest stopped coming.
“My son tried to get me to withdraw the money, but I didn’t believe him because we had been getting interest every month,” he said.
Mr. Soeu also said a Buddhist monk in Pur Thom Pagoda in M’Ream commune vouched for the company because he had already invested in it and was receiving interest.
“The monk said he had investigated the company and they wouldn’t cheat us,” Mr. Soeu said. “The people started to believe him.”
In a separate scheme, Mr. Soeu said villagers were told that if they invested in a water-purification plant Mr. Samrit was building, they would reap 2.5 percent interest.
Svay Rieng deputy provincial Governor Ros Chhay said police were investigating the case and Mr. Samrit was being held at the provincial police headquarters for further questioning.
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