Indonesia Expat
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Scams in the City

Online Romance Extortion

Should you ever have the misfortune to become an inmate of an Indonesian jail, you quickly learn that regular funds are required to survive within the crooked penitentiary system. One prisoner made money by using a bogus Facebook account to lure lonely older women into sharing nude photos and videos and then extorted them.

Prison inmates are not allowed to have mobile phones or laptops, but money can buy you just about anything in jail, even weekend leave, provided you take along a couple of guards as escorts and look after them.

Saeful Husen (26) is serving a sentence of nine years and six months at a jail in West Java province, for narcotics offences. Convicted in May 2010, he had been due for parole next year. In October 2014 he created a Facebook account under the alias T. Rizal Maulana, posing as a shipping executive based in the East Java capital of Surabaya. To attract female friends, he used photos of a handsome Filipino man wearing a uniform of the Philippine Nautical Training Institute.

One of Saeful’s victims was a 50-year-old school teacher from the West Kalimantan capital of Pontianak. Flattered by his online compliments and text messages, she soon fell in love and began sending him photos of herself via WhatsApp. When asked to send nude selfies and videos of herself performing sexual acts, she consented. Saeful then threatened to publicly upload the images and videos unless she transferred money to him.

The teacher ended up making transfers totalling Rp.80 million. With no end in sight to the blackmailing, she bravely reported the matter to police on January 8. Police initially had no luck in tracking down ‘T. Rizal Maulana’, until they traced his internet protocol address to Subang Class IIA Penitentiary at the end of January.

Police discovered that Saeful had at least five other victims in different provinces. All had transferred funds to a bank account held by the girlfriend of Saeful’s cellmate. The cellmate had received a 10% cut of each transfer.

Prison authorities punished Saeful by confiscating his smartphone and giving him six days in a special ‘punishment cell’. He has also been denied family visits for one month and will likely be denied parole.

West Kalimantan Police Chief Brigadier General Ariel Sulistyanto said the case should prompt stricter supervision at prisons to prevent inmates from using prohibited items, such as mobile phones, as they could be used for criminal purposes, including drug trafficking.

In Bali, a female student was befriended on Facebook last year by a man who gave himself the name Putu Agus Sadi Artana and claimed to be 23 years old. Although they never met in person, the student fell in love and routinely transferred money to her ‘boyfriend’ for various purported expenses, such as medicine. She also sent him nude photos of herself. The man then demanded more money or he would release her photos. She transferred a total of Rp.40 million.

The girl confessed her problem to her parents, who last month contacted police. Officers discovered the money had been sent to the bank accounts of two men–G.N. Gunawan and Kadek Diari Arsana–both of them inmates at Bali’s Karangasem penitentiary. Police have so far named the pair only as witnesses pending further investigation.

“He told them he could use his magical powers to remove “negative auras” from their bodies, provided he could see them naked.”

In the North Sumatra capital of Medan, a man named Johan Ang (31) managed to convince at least 20 women he met via Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger to send him nude photos of themselves. He told them he could use his magical powers to remove “negative auras” from their bodies, provided he could see them naked. The women believed this superstitious nonsense. Aura cleansing is a total scam, perpetrated by charlatans pretending to be psychic.

Johan blackmailed the women by threatening to expose their naked photos. He routinely demanded sums ranging from Rp.158,000 to Rp.5 million. One of his victims, a 20-year-old woman, complained to police, who then apprehended the conman in a sting operation last October. Neighbours were surprised by the arrest, describing Johan as a quiet man who lived with his parents. Police said his victims were from Medan, Kalimantan and Jakarta. He was charged with extortion and fraud, which carry a combined maximum sentence of nine years behind bars.

Some scammers pose as talent agents to persuade aspiring models and actresses to send nude photos. A paedophile named Tjandra Adi Gunawan, who worked as a manager of a Jakarta shipping company, posed on Facebook as a female doctor under the pseudonym Lia Halim and befriended at least six young girls, whom he convinced to send sexual photos of themselves. He then sent the photos to the girls’ parents and demanded money.

In response to online romance scams, some Indonesian women have formed a Facebook community page called ‘Waspada Scammer Cinta’ (Love Scammer Alert), posting photos used by scammers and providing support to victims.

Online dating scams have been around for a long time, but people the world over keep being duped. Australians last year transferred $23 million to romance scammers, mostly based in West Africa. One high-profile victim is Maria Exposto (51), originally from East Timor. She recently travelled to Shanghai in the expectation of meeting her online boyfriend, whom she thought was an American soldier. Instead, a different man gave her a bag to take to Australia, claiming it contained documents for her boyfriend’s retirement. During a stopover at Kuala Lumpur on her way back to Melbourne, the bag was searched and found to contain 1.5 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, for which Maria could receive the mandatory death penalty.

Some Indonesian scammers go beyond just using photos of soldiers and police to attract women. Akbar Paputungan (23) from West Sulawesi posed as a member of the Army in order to seduce women. He met a 29-year-old woman via Facebook, lived with her for two months and borrowed her money. He promised to marry her, but she became suspicious because he never worked and always needed money. She reported him to police. He was arrested last week and now faces four years in jail for fraud.

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