March 10, 2015 / 9:25 AM / in 4 years

American held in Thailand linked to Detroit housing telemarketing scam

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai police have arrested an American suspected of being part of a group charged with operating a fraudulent Detroit housing telemarketing scheme that caused losses of over $20 million to nearly 300 people, a senior officer said on Tuesday.

New York resident Joseph Simon Arsenault was arrested in Bangkok on Monday after police acted on a request from the U.S. embassy in Bangkok, said Police Major General Warawut Thaweechaiyagarn, investigative commander of Thailand’s Immigration Bureau.

Arsenault was one of 16 people charged in 2014 with a range of offences including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit.

“We were asked to pursue this case by the U.S. embassy. Mr. Arsenault was arrested on Monday in Bangkok,” Warawut told Reuters.

“We are waiting to send him back to the United States which should happen in the very near future.”

Arsenault was not available for comment.

According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, which investigated the case, Arsenault and 15 others are suspected of operating from call centers in Florida and New York and making calls to individuals across the United States offering to sell homes in Detroit.

The telemarketers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, lied about the values of the homes and told investors they were buying bank-owned property that had previously had mortgages worth many times the sale price.

The homes were in reality bought for no more than $500 and sold to investors for between $7,500 and $15,000. The telemarketers then made investors believe the homes had been sold on to foreign buyers or hedge funds for a substantial profit when no such transactions took place, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Nick Macfie

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