None was a gullible woman robbed of precious items, and she took to social networking to get justice
With improvised detective work, a strong sense of desperation, and much help from Facebook, a woman made headlines when she helped the police nab a con artist. Gullibility had made her a victim, but her case is an example of how determination to fight back _ and the wide reach of social networking _ can turn the situation around.
The 30-year-old “None”_ an alias she uses to keep her privacy _ told Life that after she was duped by Chakorn “Ome” Boonchern, who falsely claimed to carry a famous politician’s surname “Thienthong”, into handing over belongings worth 50,000 baht, the police officer who took her complaint gave her little hope that her case would be investigated.
“I was already distraught when I reached the Bang Na police station to lodge a complaint. I was rather taken aback when the officer who wrote my grievance told me not to expect an investigation for a crime where only a small amount of money is stolen. I decided on starting the Facebook page only when all other means of making progress into the case were exhausted.”
Her Facebook page announced its blunt purpose in the title “Hunt Down Ai Ome” _ Ai Ome is a colloquial way of calling Ome, the perpetrator. Soon the page had nearly 3,000 members.
Her background as a former journalist gave her a head start into a probe that, she admits, has totally consumed her waking hours. Together with the support of a network of friends, she meticulously investigated and uploaded evidence gathered from video footage and accounts from Ome’s other victims.
Four months of intensive evidence gathering _ during which other victims of the same criminal worked together online _ eventually played a pivotal role in helping police track down Ome and book him on theft charges late last month.
DUPED BY GOOD ACTING
None _ who took this alias from her login “none only”, which she formerly used on social network websites _ met the manipulative gold-digger on a Pantip web board, posing as a man on the verge of committing suicide. He candidly announced to everyone that after discovering his girlfriend was cheating on him, he could not take the betrayal and wanted to die.
None was one among a number of sympathisers who encouraged him to look at the bright side of life. In retrospect, she says there was a piece of information that she now realises she shouldn’t have divulged to a stranger. She told him she was unemployed, and sensing she was emotionally vulnerable, he asked to chat with her privately.
“I told him that even though I was unemployed I was doing just fine, and had no reason to be depressed,” said the young woman. “He asked me how I kept my spirits high in times of trial. He made me feel like his hero. I don’t want to go as far as to say that he had the power to control my mind, but I felt he gave me little time to focus on what was happening.
“Giving my mobile number and not changing my login on various websites also made me an open target.”
After she talked him out of taking his life, Ome persuaded her into meeting him the next day to make merit, on the pretence that he wanted to thank her. He rushed her the following morning to see him, saying that his father would also be accompanying them. They were to meet at a coffee shop near Udomsuk, after which he would take her to a nearby temple to make merit.
None dropped by a nearby supermarket when he called her mobile. Having researched her well over the Internet the night before, he knew exactly how she looked. She didn’t think too much of the coincidence at the time and went along innocently with his manipulations. The prey was well under the charlatan’s spell, so when he told her that his father could not join them because of an unexpected appointment she didn’t doubt his sincerity at all.
At the coffee shop, he looked especially interested in the Buddha amulet she was wearing. As she saw his hand stretch out to feel the religious relic around her neck, her instant reaction was to take it off to show it to him. Prior to heading off to the temple, she put the amulet into her bag.
As None had left her house in a hurry, her hair was still wet from washing it. Ome coaxed her into getting her hair dried at a nearby salon, so she would look presentable when they arrived at the temple. His airtight plan seemed to be on course _ he had convinced her, with his exceptional acting prowess, that he was genuinely thankful for her support and friendship. Or so it seemed. In less than 24 hours of getting to know him, he had robbed her off possessions, which held sentimental value to her, namely a golden chain and amulet and her favourite bag.
None remembers the last hour the two spent together with mixed emotions, saying: “When we walked to the salon, he looked pale and said he had a heart problem.
“As he was carrying a wallet, phone and umbrella, he asked if it would be okay for him to put his belongings in my bag. Looking at his pathetic physical state, I agreed. When we reached the salon, he put my bag on the counter and suggested that he would look after it while I get my hair washed and dried. I felt he wouldn’t do me wrong because he was thankful for the help I had been to him.
“When I heard the door of the shop open, I still didn’t think anything of it. It was only later after asking vendors near the shop if they had seen him that I realised that he had duped me.”
The media took notice of the Facebook page “Hunt Down Ai Ome”, which was quickly popular online. And soon the police moved in to investigate.
Ome, who moved accommodation regularly to avoid arrest and suspicion, was eventually caught while attempting to extort money from a professional photographer who had lost his camera, claiming he would return it if he got a 30,000 baht reward. The photographer alerted the police, who by then were able to show the culprit to be the man on the Facebook page.
They arrested the pudgy criminal at a flat in Bangkok’s Lat Phrao district. Uncovered at his residence were 136 seemingly stolen items, namely, handbags, ATM cards, credit cards, computer notebooks and mobile phones. He pleaded guilty to all theft charges, but not to sexual assault. Police recently submitted the case to the prosecution, and are now waiting for the charges to be filed.
When both victim and perpetrator met face to face at the police press conference held to announce his capture, Ome thanked her for helping the police to catch him. None said he went as far as to say that if she didn’t help the police arrest him, he would probably continue to live a life of crime to feed his gambling addiction.
She reacted by saying: “For his sake, I hope he can turn over a new leaf. But I doubt it.
“In jail, he will probably have opportunities to meet hardened criminals, who will pass on to him the tricks of the trade. As he is a very clever person, he might come out a worse off criminal than when he went in.”