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Imposter fleeced officials

A former military official accused of pretending to be an aide to Anti-Corruption Unit chief Om Yentieng in order to extort money from police officers and other officials confessed to the crimes in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday.

Chea Sopheap, a former major in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, was charged with fraud and creating a false identity as a public official after allegedly extorting amounts as high as US$3,000 from high-level provincial police and government offic-ials across the country.

Chea Sopheap, also known as Chea Sovannarith, told the court he had learned the trick from a journalist named Neng who previously worked for the “Nation Newspaper” but had since disappeared.

“I decided to ask for money from these people because I had known that they had been involved with corruption or other irregular activities,” he said.  

“So I faked my identity to be the anti-corruption unit’s officer and used the influence of His Excellency Om Yentieng to do it.”

Chea Sopheap then conceded that he had made mistakes and requested a pardon.

Presiding judge Oeung Seang told the court Chea Sopheap had extorted many thousands of dollars from officials including Modulkiri governor Chan Yoeun, Battambang province police chief Sor Theth and Kampot province deputy police chief Col Thlang Phirin.

“He used the name of His Excellency Om Yentieng, who is the president of the Royal Government of Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit, in collecting money from many police officials and government’s officials in cities and provinces in Cambodia,” he said.

Chea Sophea was arrested at an ACLEDA Bank branch in Prampi Makara district on September 12 after Col Thlang Phirin complained that the accused was attempting to extort $3,000 from him.

Col Thlang Phirin’s assistant, Yi Kear, said that four days before, Chea Sopheap had begun repeatedly calling his boss claiming he worked with Om Yentieng and needed money to buy cement for the construction of a military training school in Kampong Speu province for the Prime Minister’s Bodyguard Unit.

Thlang Phirin prepared a plan to arrest Chea Sophea after a call to Om Yentieng confirmed that he did not work with the ACU chief.

“He was arrested by pol-ice when he went to receive $1,000 from the victim at the ACLEDA Bank near City Mall market,” Yi Kear said.

A verdict in the case is scheduled for December 27.

Om Yientieng and ACU spokesman Keo Remy could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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