Three Men Jailed for Swindling Hundreds in Land Scheme

Three men were charged with fraud in Kratie province on Wednesday after they were arrested for convincing more than 400 people from four provinces to give them money to secure pieces of land, police said Thursday.

Police arrested Ty El, 57; Ming Poeun, 61; and Se Soeun, 41, on Monday as they were collecting thumbprints from residents of Snuol district’s Khsoem commune, according to Kang Sovanney, deputy chief of the provincial police’s judicial bureau.

“The court charged all of them with fraud yesterday and we also sent them to pretrial detention at the provincial prison,” Mr. Sovanney said.

District police chief Chann Sokim said the men told villagers that they were close with government officials and then asked them for small sums of money in order to secure 30-by-70-meter plots of land.

“The suspects confessed that they collected between 30,000 riel [about $7.50] and 150,000 riel [about $37.50] and promised to provide 2,100 square meters to each family as soon as possible,” he said.

Mr. Sokim said police had found a list of names with the thumbprints of more than 400 people who had been swindled in the provinces of Kratie, Prey Veng, Tbong Khmum and Kompong Cham since June.

He added that the trio told police that they sent the money they collected to a ringleader named “Mr. Kimsan,” who they said was a reporter for the Preah Vihear Newspaper.

“They said they did not keep the money with them because they already sent it to Mr. Kimsan, who lives in Phnom Penh. We are seeking to identify that ringleader,” he said.

The case follows a similar scheme in Snuol district, which saw five men arrested last month for posing as government officials and duping about 400 villagers out of $2,000 each.

The five were charged with fraud and unlawful interference in public functions, and are being held at the provincial prison.

Mr. Sokim said Thursday, however, that he did not believe the two cases were linked.

“They are a separate group of suspects, but their activities are very similar,” he said.

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