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‘Times up’ suspects in tour-stimulus scam surrender

Three people accused of defrauding a tourism stimulus co-payment scheme turned themselves in to face charges at the Crime Suppression Division on Thursday night, a police source said on Friday.

Monthicha Sampluem, 30, her mother Kamolwan Chanapal, 52, and her boyfriend Yothin Sanga-ngam, 27, were accused of fraud in connection with the Rao Tiew Duay Kan (We Travel Together) scheme designed to stimulate local tourism hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The source said the three suspects were among 41 sought by police looking into fraudulent practices in the northeastern region. Police had already nabbed the other 38 when the trio surrendered.

According to the source, Ms Monthicha and her accomplices assumed the role of bogus tourists using the Pao Tang mobile application to take part in the co-payment scheme.

Her boyfriend reportedly colluded with business operators who used the Tung Ngern app to disburse the subsidy scheme while Ms Kamolwan persuaded people to sell their benefit rights.

The police crackdown on the fraud was revealed last week and more than 800 hotels, restaurants and shops were accused of defrauding the scheme.

The fraud was orchestrated in numerous guises, from people being paid to apply for the programme for someone else, hotels accessing the scheme despite still being closed, to misuse of e-vouchers.

However, most of them were not linked. Each acted independently, devising their own tactics in exploiting loopholes.

About 3.5 million people registered to participate in the scheme when it was launched in July.

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