The Police Cyber Taskforce ( PERCENT) has joined forces with its US counterparts to crack down on a major fake-dollar gang network, with huge seizures of offset printing machines and thousands of counterfeit $100 bills carried out so far.
Pol Maj Gen Naphanwut Liamsanguan, commander of Investigation Division Provincial Police Region 8 which is also part of the PERCENT team, told the Bangkok Post that this was the biggest crackdown on a dollar bill forgery gang since 2012.
A total of 40 legal cases has resulted from fake dollar bill crackdowns since then. The seized banknotes were mostly printed in the series 2006 and 2006A.
In the operation, police managed to arrest suspects involved, ranging from dealers, coordinators, employers to banknote printers.
Police also confiscated three high-quality offset printing machines, filling a long-time gap since police last seized a press in Bangkokâ€™s Sai Mai district in 2016, said Pol Maj Gen Naphanwut.
During July to September, deputy national police chief Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas, in his capacity as the director of the taskforce, and Pol Maj Gen Naphanwut coordinated with Christopher Rohde, head of the US Secret Service in Bangkok, after the agencies became aware of increased banknote forgeries in Thailand.
The collaboration stemmed from a source who said most banknote forgery took place in the Southeast Asia.
Rohde said a tip-off led police to the crackdown, resulting in the arrest of eight wrongdoers and seizure of many printing presses.
Pol Maj Gen Naphanwut said the PERCENT worked with Metropolitan Police to crack down on the gang, which was later expanded to a raid on a factory in Bang Len district of Nakhon Pathom and the seizure of 36,000 counterfeit $100 bills worth around 100 million baht.
A subsequent crackdown took place on November 11 at two spots.
The first took place in Muang district of Phetchaburi where police nabbed a banknote printing supervisor, known only as Thongmak, and seized four offset printing machines.
At another spot in Bangkok, police arrested a major Lao funder, known only as Boonchuai who was the press procurer for the factory in Nakhon Pathom. He was nabbed at a house in Klong Toey district.
As of November 12, police had expanded the investigation to arrest another suspect, known only as Kitchaphat, and seized 10,000 counterfeit $100 bills.
Kitchaphat said Siraphob was the one who brought the fake dollar bills to distribute by having Boonchuai pay him to rent a house in Lam Luk Ka district of Pathum Thani to print the fake banknotes.
Police asked the court for a search warrant there and discovered many items including printing machines and fake dollar bills, resulting to further warrants being secured against the wrongdoers for foreign banknote forgery. The potential penalty is life imprisonment.
Pol Maj Gen Naphanwut said the US Secret Service also sent its staff to join the inspection in the case, which spotted a connection between the printing sites in Nakhon Pathom and Pathum Thani that may have been run by the same gang.
â€œThe seizure is huge. The banknotes seized in Nakhon Pathom resembled the real ones to a 95 percent likeness, while the seized banknotes in Pathum Thani resembled the real thing by 96-97%. Even experts were astonished by the likeness,â€ he said.
Police have provided some some guidelines to spot fake $100 bills.
Firstly, the main raw material for the $100 bills is cotton in lieu of paper. Due to the difference in material, if it is put in the washing machine, the real one is still usable.
When holding the banknote to the light, the watermark bearing the portrait of Benjamin Franklin in the blank space to the right side will be clearly visible.
In addition, if holding the banknote to light, an embedded thread running vertically to the left side will see that it is imprinted with the letters USA and the numeral 100.
Lastly, when tilting the banknote to see the numeral 100 in the lower right corner at the front, the colour of the numeral will shift from green to black.
Contact Crime Track: [emailÂ protected]