Empty tank scam fools taxi passengers

If your taxi appears to have run out of petrol and the driver asks you to push the cab to the side of the road, don’t do it – unless you have all your belongings with you.

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Victims point at Wallop Uthong, 54, the taxi driver accused of a series of drive-off heists, at the Provincial Police Region 1 headquarters in Bangkok. WASSAYOS NGAMKHAM

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Empty tank scam fools taxi passengers

A search of the suspect's home found this stolen puppy. WASSAYOS NGAMKHAM

On April 3, a Nonthaburi couple left their home to go to Suvarnabhumi airport to catch a flight to India. They didn't make it.

Everything seemed normal when they entered an orange taxi outside their home, but as they drove along Ratchapruek Road, the cab slowed to a stop, apparently out of petrol.

The driver turned around in his seat and told them that he was disabled and needed them to push the car to the side of the road for him. The couple obliged.

The husband left the cab first, followed by his wife. The moment they were out of the car, the driver restarted the taxi and sped off, taking with him all of their belongings.

Without money or phones, the desperate couple set out on foot to the nearest police station in Nonthaburi's Muang district to report the incident. They walked for more than an hour.

The police told them there was little hope of finding the driver, but Nonthaburi police commander Pol Maj Gen Thanayut Wuthicharasthamrong had other ideas.

He ordered an investigation and police soon discovered that more than 10 other similar incidents involving a taxi had taken place in Bangkok and Pathum Thani in the past few months.

With the help of the victims, a sketch artist drew an image of the driver, while investigators reviewed surveillance recordings from cameras installed along the route they took.

One camera outside a convenience store had captured the orange taxi on film, but the image was blurry.

Pol Maj Gen Thanayut then turned his attention to the couple's belongings.

Police quickly discovered the driver had sold the couple's phones at a second-hand shop in Bangkok's Huai Kwang district. However, the shop owner had no personal details about the person who sold him the phones.

Luckily, police obtained a phone number used by the suspect to call the shop.

On Tuesday, police managed to pinpoint the suspect's whereabouts from his mobile phone signal.

Wallop Uthong, 54, was traced to a resort in Bang Pla Ma district of Suphan Buri where he was spending the night with his mistress.

Mr Wallop allegedly told police he had stolen the couple's belongings. He was charged with the theft.

Police seized his taxi and later searched his house in Nonthaburi, discovering hundreds of valuable items stolen from other victims – including a four-month-old Pomeranian puppy they said was taken in a similar drive-off heist.

Mr Wallop allegedly said he committed his scam about 12 times in the past several months.

Adapted from a story by Wassayos Ngamkham in today’s Bangkok Post.

scam – a dishonest plan, especially for getting money  กลโกง, แผนร้าย
victim – someone who has been harmed, injured or killed as the result of a crime, accident, etc. เหยื่อผู้เคราะห์ร้าย
heist – (informal) an act of stealing something valuable, especially from a shop/store or bank การปล้น (คำสแลง)
headquarters – the place where an organisation or company has its main offices กองบัญชาการ
couple – two people who are married or are involved in a romantic relationship คุ่รัก
normal – typical, usual or ordinary; what you would expect ภาวะปกติ
apparently – based only on what you have heard or think, not on what you are certain is true; seemingly ตามที่ได้รู้มา
disabled – having a condition, especially a physical one, that limits your activities in some way พิการ
oblige – to help somebody by doing what they ask or what you know they want ช่วยเหลือ, กรุณา
belongings – the things you own ข้าวของเครื่องใช้
desperate – very worried or confused because you do not know how to deal with an unpleasant or dangerous situation อย่างสิ้นหวัง  อย่างหมดหวัง
incident – something that happens, usually something bad เหตุการณ์
commander – a police offer of high rank ผู้บังคับบัญชา
investigation – the process of trying to find out all the details or facts about something in order to discover who or what caused it or how it happened การสอบสวน, การตรวจสอบหาข้อเท็จจริง
discover – to find somebody/something, or learning about something that was not known about before ค้นพบ
similar – like somebody/something but not exactly the same คล้ายกัน
sketch – a simple picture that is drawn quickly and does not have many details ภาพร่าง
image – a photograph, painting, or other work of art that represents a person or thing รูปภาพ
surveillance recording – video from a camera that is put in a place to constantly record what happens there – เทปวิดีโอจากกล้องวงจรปิดเพื่อรักษาการความปลอดภัย
route – the roads used to go from one place to another เส้นทาง
convenience store – a shop/store that sells food, newspapers, etc. and often stays open 24 hours a day  ร้านสะดวกซื้อ
image – any picture, especially one formed by a mirror or a lens จินตภาพ ภาพลักษณ์
blurry – not clear; without a clear outline  ที่พร่ามัว, ไม่ชัดเจน
attention – the interest or thought that you give to something you are doing, listening to or watching ความสนใจ, ความตั้งใจ
details – small facts or pieces of information relating to a situation รายละเอียด
obtain – to get something that you want or need, especially by going through a process that is difficult ได้มา, ได้รับ
suspect – a person who is thought to have committed a crime ผู้ต้องสงสัย
pinpoint – to discover exactly where something is หาตำแหน่ง
whereabouts – where someone is ที่อยู่,สถานที่,ตำแหน่งที่
trace – to follow the evidence to find out something ตามรอย ตามทาง
mistress – a woman who is having a sexual relationship with a married man ภรรยาลับ, ภรรยาน้อย, เมียน้อย
allegedly – stated without giving complete proof ที่ถูกกล่าวหา
charge – to accuse someone officially of committing a crime ตั้งข้อกล่าวหา
theft – (the act of) dishonestly taking something which belongs to someone else and keeping it การลักขโมย
seize – to take something using official power ยึด
search – to look somewhere carefully in order to find something ค้นหา
puppy – a young dog ลูกสุนัข

Related search: Taxi driver scam, empty tank, Nonthaburi, Wallop Uthong

About the author

Writer: Terry Fredrickson
Position: Education Marketing and Support Manager