Fri, 04 Jul 2003

`Malaysian' tricksters arrested for fraud

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Police said on Thursday they had arrested three tricksters pretending to be Malaysians who tricked their victims here into exchanging their money and other belongings with the suspects' outdated Brazilian pesos.

"We arrested them while trying to cheat a would-be victim on Jl. Martadinata, Ciputat, Tangerang," said Adj. Sr. Comr. Joko Wahyudi, a senior officer of the Jakarta police detectives.

The suspects, who spoke with a phony Malaysian accent while operating, were identified as Yan Carol Ivansyah, 40, Yanto, 30, and A.A. Kurnia, 39.

Yan is a resident of Jl. Soka, Curug, Tangerang, and Yanto from Kramat Pulo, Senen, Central Jakarta, while Kurnia is Yanto's neighbor.

Joko said the police seized 16 banknotes of outdated Brazilian pesos from the suspects as evidence in their fraud case, adding the arrests followed a tip off from locals.

Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Yan claimed that his group had been operating for four months in different areas across the capital, using a rented car.

In every operation, each of the groups managed to take away between Rp 600,000 and Rp 1 million from their respective victims, he added.

Yan said he and his accomplices targeted middle-aged well- dressed women who walked alone on the street with eye-catching valuables or bags.

"We pretended to ask whether she could show us an address and offered her Rp 100,000 as a commission. Later, we offered to exchange 1,000 Brazilian pesos with Rp 5 million. She accepted the offer after we told her that it was valued at Rp 5 million," he said.

Many victims, Yan said, could be cheated easily as they thought they had profited by the exchange.

To further convince their victims, Yan said he told them they had just come from Malaysia and had no Indonesian rupiah to pay the commission.

He admitted that he learned this modus operandi from newspapers and television reports.

"I learned from newspaper stories how to deceive victims, hypnotize them and the like, while I practiced a Malaysian accent from watching TV," he said.

Another suspect, Yanto, said he had purchased the outdated pesos for Rp 10,000 a note at Pasar Baru market in Central Jakarta.

Dede, the owner of the car rented by the suspects, said he knew nothing about the fraud.

"I only knew that they rented my car for business purposes, but I didn't know that they used it for criminal activities," he said angrily.

He said the suspects rented his car for five days and he charged them Rp 1.3 million.

Joko said the suspects could be charged under Article 378 of the Criminal Code on fraud, for which they face a maximum sentence of four years in prison.