A Swedish tourist is in police custody in Phuket for the alleged theft of 85 Nokia mobile phones from a delivery vehicle in Patong.
Patong Police duty officer Weerapong Rakkittoo identified the suspect as John Redling, age 38.
The devices were reported stolen from a delivery vehicle in the basement parking lot of the Jungceylon shopping complex on March 3.
Following a one-week investigation, the Swede was arrested in his Nanai Road apartment on Thursday.
Suphon Tinphoe and Jiraporn Thonghoon of Nokia distributor Silk Telecom Co Ltd reported an unspecified number of telephones stolen from the cab of their delivery pickup on March 3, Capt Weerapong said.
The subsequent police investigation and stock check put the number of missing phones at 85, all Nokias.
Police said a call to one of the stolen phones was picked up by one Sinchai Ladleua, a resident of Kathu Municipality.
Police declined to say how they were able to call the mobile phone. Mobile phones are usually fitted with SIM cards after retail purchase in Thailand, allowing customers a selection of different numbers to choose from.
Capt Weerapong would only say that a “special police technique” allowed investigators to place the call.
Under questioning at Thung Thong Police Station, Mr Sinchai said he bought the telephone from Poramate “Karn” Deesamer, a 34-year-old resident of Nanai Road in Patong.
Another woman called in for questioning, Waraporn Jaidee, likewise reported having bought a phone from Mr Poramate.
Subsequent investigation led police to the home of Mr Poramate, where eight more phones were recovered.
Mr Poramate told police he bought the phones from Reuthairat Raksasin, a 29-year-old resident of Khon Kaen working in Patong.
Police set up a sting operation in which Mr Poramate called Ms Reuthairat to arrange an appointment to buy more mobile phones, Capt Weerapong said.
Police accompanied Mr Poramate to the Nanai Road apartment of Mr Redling, where Ms Reuthairat was also staying.
Twenty-four telephones matching the serial numbers of the stolen devices were found in the room.
Mr Poramate and Ms Reuthairat were charged with receipt and sale of stolen goods.
Mr Redling was charged with the theft of 85 mobile phones.
He denied the charges, however, telling the Phuket Gazette that he acquired the telephones “duty free” and gave them to Ms Reuthairat to sell because she was short of money.
Ms Reuthairat was not the only one in financial distress, however.
Capt Weerapong said his investigation revealed that the permit-to-stay in Mr Redling’s passport had expired 10 days earlier.
He was also two months behind in his rent and 20,000 baht behind on vehicle payments, he added.
Mr Redling told the Gazette he was a carpenter in Sweden and a regular visitor to Phuket.
He had been coming to Phuket annually for the past five years and planned to stay two weeks on his current visit.
Given the speed of the Thai criminal justice system, he now faces the prospect of a much longer stay.
Patong Police have thus far recovered 52 of the 85 missing telephones.
They are calling on members of the public who may have bought one of the phones to contact them so they can be returned to their rightful owner.
Mr Poramate sold the phones for as little as 500 baht each, Capt Weerapong said.