30 held in raids on fraud gang
Police raided dozens of locations across the city yesterday, arresting over 30 members of a suspected fraud ring that has swindled more than HK$5 million from financial firms in the past 12 months, police said yesterday.
The syndicate, run by two 20-year-old men, allegedly recruited more than 50 people and used their personal information to cheat 13 banks and finance companies, police said. Those arrested included the two ringleaders, both suspected triad members, and 31 others, they said. Crime-squad officers were still hunting for 22 other suspects last night.
Chief Inspector Chan Chiu-chin of the New Territories North regional crime unit said the financial firms were tricked into giving the swindlers cash advances on credit cards, then loans. The swindlers applied for credit cards using their real names but falsifying the other information, such as proof of income and home addresses.
'They made cash withdrawals with the credit cards,' Chan said. 'They made the minimum payments required, then used their credit card bills and forged documents to apply for personal loans from banks and finance companies.'
The conmen pretended to be managers, cleaners and delivery workers when they applied for credit cards and personal loans. In reality, an initial investigation showed half of the conmen recruited were drug addicts and the others were their friends, police said.
The raids followed investigations that went on for several weeks.
Chan said the masterminds lured the others to join the scheme through a '50-50 scheme'. 'We understand that they each were allowed to keep half the money they took,' he said. One of the scammers received loans totalling HK$288,000, he said.
Bogus addresses and prepaid- phone-card numbers were written on the application forms. 'The gang even made mailboxes for their fake addresses,' a police officer said. 'They used letterboxes in old buildings where they could receive mail from the money lenders.'
The gang chose old buildings - which had no security guards, security gates at their front entrances or surveillance cameras - for the fake addresses.
The syndicate had been in operation for about one year, and the amount of loans involved reached more than HK$5 million, police said.
Describing the scam as 'well planned', Chan said: 'We believe we have smashed the syndicate and stopped its fraud.'
Crime-squad officers began investigating the syndicate after receiving a tip-off last month.
After an investigation lasting several weeks, police planned their raid to begin at 3am yesterday. They raided over 50 locations. Those arrested, all Hong Kong residents and aged between 19 and 58, were held on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud, forgery and handling stolen property.
Police said two of the suspects were caught at the Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau border checkpoints when they returned to Hong Kong from trips to Shenzhen.
One of the alleged ringleaders was nabbed when officers raided his home in Kwai Chung Estate in Kwai Chung, at about 4am. Inside, police seized HK$330,000 in cash, 13 related bank cards, bogus documents and company chops, bank documents and a computer.
The other suspected mastermind was taken from his home in Lam Tin at the same time.
The pair are reportedly unemployed members of the Wo Shing Wo triad society, which is active in Tsuen Wan.
Last night, the 26 men and seven women were being held for questioning and none had been charged. Investigations are continuing.
The maximum number of years in jail that offenders can face if convicted of conspiracy to defraud or uttering forged documents