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Former officials earn 3 years’ jail over fraud

Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced a former Ministry of Justice staffer and an ex-police officer each to three years in prison yesterday for impersonating anti-corruption officials in order to defraud two victims out of $6,000.

Judge Sin Visal found Nuon Sarath, 42, formerly of the Justice Ministry’s civil affairs department, and Keo Sophal, 48, a one-time police officer with the Interior Ministry’s heritage protection police, guilty of aggravated fraud. He sentenced each to three years in prison – with one year suspended – and ordered them to pay $1,200 to their victims.

“They have the right to file a complaint opposing this court’s decision to the Appeal Court within 30 days if they do not accept it,” Visal added.

Sarath and Sophal were arrested by the Anti-Corruption Unit last June.

According to ACU official Nuon Sothimon, Sarath and Sophal were arrested based on complaints from three victims in Kampot province and Phnom Penh who accused the two of using the ACU’s name to scam them out of money in 2012.

“Their activities have seriously affected the ACU’s honour and reputation, and would have made people or the public lose trust in the ACU’s work,” he said.

Sothimon said that in 2012, the pair had twice impersonated ACU officials promising to secure the release of victims’ relatives from jail in exchange for sizeable bribes, and had stolen a plot of land in a third case.

“They cheated a farmer … out of $2,500 in Kampot province’s Chhouk district, promising that they would take the money to release her relative … who was jailed in Prey Sar prison,” Sothimon said. “But they could not get her released, and when the victim asked them to return her money, they threatened to arrest her and her family and put them in prison.”

The pair scammed another victim in the capital’s Prampi Makara district out $3,500 in a similar scheme.

Sarath and Sophal both maintained their innocence yesterday and said they would appeal the decision soon.

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