Authorities yesterday said that they have raided a telephone fraud gang in Yilan and arrested 33 suspects, 13 of whom were found to be repeat offenders who were repatriated from the Philippines four years ago.
After placing the gang under surveillance for three months, local police units and agents from the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau, co-ordinated by prosecutors, raided two locations in Yilan County on Wednesday to apprehend suspects and seize evidence, officials said.
The group allegedly rented houses in the rural area and installed computers and telecommunication equipment that they used to target people in China.
After going through account ledgers and bank transaction records, investigators estimated the group had made illicit profits of about NT$10 million (US$309,540) in the past four months alone.
Prosecutor Shen Nien-chu (沈念祖) of the Yilan District Prosecutors’ Office said there were 27 male and six female suspects, with Chan Chih-cheng (詹誌誠), 30, the alleged mastermind.
Investigators found 13 suspects, including Chan, were repeat offenders who went on the run after being convicted and sentenced to between one and six years in prison in connection with an international telephone fraud case in 2012.
Shen said the 13 suspects were repatriated from the Philippines at that time, when they pleaded with the Taiwanese government to provide judicial assistance to return them home to face prosecution.
The Philipine government had planned to send them to China, since they targeted Chinese citizens, but efforts by Taiwanese authorities to repatriate them were successful, and judicial officials brought then home via a charter flight.
Chan and his fellow suspects were quoted as saying they cried with happiness after learning they would not face prosecution in China.
“Though they were convicted and handed prison sentences, Chan and the others in the group refused to report to authorities and went into hiding, and police were alerted to look out for the wanted fugitives. Now we find them carrying on the same criminal operation for telecoms fraud against people in China,” Shen said.
Yilan police said that showed the punishment for telecoms fraud was too lenient in Taiwan, and that in most instances, the suspects receive only suspended sentences if prosecutors cannot obtain deposition statements from victims.
“In China, a person will get at least 10 years jail term if convicted of fraud, but in Taiwan, the court usually hands out one to three year sentences, but often only suspended sentences. We suggest the law should be amended to require suspects to appear in person for court rulings, and to put them into custody right away upon a guilty conviction,” said the official, who declined to be named.
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