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Thai Girlfriend, Fake University Student

Note: All names have been changed to protect the identity of individuals and businesses. (Notably, the victim of this case posted several messages on a public internet messageboard in a discussion he started detailing this case further from his perspective, for the general public, using his real name.)

This case study is one of a Thai girlfriend with a "bad girl result", even though it actually falls into the "missing person" class of cases. It has many elements all in one case:

  • fake student
  • trickery of a man for his money
  • a Thai lady in a truly legitimate job with exposure to many foreigners
  • long delayed requests for money, after relationship established
  • seemingly real reasons why she needed money, but which were just tricks
  • use of internet to her advantage
  • sudden complete disappearance
  • difficulty in getting traced

In late November 2002, Thailand Private Investigations received an inquiry to find a "missing person". The man, William, was a 30 year old Singapore professional looking for a young Thai lady, Noy, who he had known for 2 years and who was scheduled to graduate from Ramkamhaeng University in February 2003, according to her communications. Major: Hotel Management. William and Noy had planned to spend two weeks together at the end of December, but William had suddenly lost all contact with Noy in mid-October, receiving no replies in email and getting only voice mail on the mobile phone from that point onward.

William was worried sick that Noy had been in an accident, and was planning to come to Bangkok to find her but couldn't do the search trip at that particular time. He realized that he would need some reliable Thai help anyway (given language and general Thailand familiarity issues), and decided to engage the services of a skilled private investigator.

The case started as a missing person case, not discreet at all. It initially appeared that Noy may have had an accident, based on the limited amount of information William initially gave us (he was very cautious and private). However, the case was challenging in that William's information on Noy was short on specific location information. The more we asked, we got just more drama back, no useful details. William made clear that she was not a bar girl but was a respectable lady, and seemed embarrassed to be using a private investigator.

Here was what the facts boiled down to:

  1. no home address, no home landline phone, just a mobile phone number (which had no billing address, just a recharge card)
  2. no contact details at all on family, except that they are somewhere in the Chiang Mai province, based on Noy's statement to William
  3. the place where he met her on a business trip (a prominent hotel in the Sathorn-Silom central business district, part of an international chain, where she was working) -- lead #2
  4. descriptive information about the road she lived on, which described Ramkamhaeng soi 39, but not an address nor building name nor anything closeby
  5. that she was a student at Ramkamhaeng University -- lead #1
  6. some photos

William was a fairly handsome, cheerful, well dressed and pretty conservative guy with a big heart. Noy's photo revealed a fairly normal looking mainstream Thai lady who was pretty and had a somewhat elegant and charming expression. Noy was from the middle class, according to her story to William.

After spending some friendly time with her at the hotel two years previous, they had started exchanging email and William would call her periodically. Noy's English was fairly good and improving. William never had sex with Noy, and did not even try, though their emails became love letters. Noy had been shy when she first met William (but had given him her phone number), and had asked William to "wait" for her. William was convinced that Noy was a proper Thai lady. William had brought his mother and father to Thailand specifically to meet Noy a year previous to the investigation, though Noy had been reluctant to meet them at that time.

Noy did not ask for money. After nearly a year of regular emailing, William had started sending money because he wanted to help Noy, as Noy had alluded to her financial pressures. At this point, William did not tell us the amounts.

The case started as a non-discreet missing person case, and the first two approaches were the hotel where she worked and the university she attended.

To stay on the safe side, we started off somewhat discreetly, "safety first". Even though at this point it was not a discreet case, experience told us that if it was a scam, we didn't want to take any unnecessary risks at tipping off the subject whereby they could start to create false trails or a cover story, e.g., "she died in a motorcycle accident".

Passthru surveillance at the hotel did not turn up Noy. Phoning up to the hotel's Human Resources Department, the agent found out that Noy had quit the hotel almost a year before. Noy had not told this to William, who thought she still worked there. Indeed, Noy had just no-showed at work one day after picking up her last paycheck, rather than give notice, and the hotel had been unhappy about that. That was our first indication that Noy may have a pattern of just disappearing, inconsiderate of others.

Walking back down into Noy's old hotel environment with the knowledge that Noy was nowhere around, the agent posed as a Ramkamhaeng student looking for her friend Noy, but found that Noy didn't really mix much with her co-workers, there had been some turnover among Noy's coworkers since then, and nobody who was still there had any idea where she went. There were some new workers in Noy's department who hadn't been there long enough to even know who Noy was.

The hotel (and later, other sources) had a Bangkok home address for Noy on Ramkamhaeng soi 39, which we checked out later, but Noy had moved out long before, with no forwarding address.

The next lead was Ramkamhaeng University. We could not find any record of Noy's Thai name on any graduation list. In fact, there was no record of Noy's recent attendance at Ramkamhaeng University! It appeared that she had just dropped out of her studies more than a year earlier, contrary to what she had been telling William all this time.

William's response to all this was initially one of shock and denial, even disbelief, and that eventually switched to feelings of betrayal and rage.

At this point, William started to tell us some interesting things. She had dropped contact with him immediately after he sent her some more money. At that time, he didn't have the money to send, and had asked her if she could wait until his paycheck later that month, but in an unusual event she hurried him, saying that she must have it by a specific date, and it absolutely could not be later than that. He met the deadline, and didn't hear from her after that.

There are a lot of things that people don't tell us because they are embarrassed. William had been sending a lot of money by Thai student standards, far more than was necessary to study fulltime at Ramkamhaeng University and not need to work at all.

William was generous by Thai standards, but William was also both working and going to school at the same time, and he constantly told Noy this, that he could not send more money, that he could send money when he received a paycheck, and so on. Noy was receiving from William more than 3 times the comfortable amount required for a Thai student in fulltime attendance at Ramkamhaeng University, i.e., students who do not need to work. It was more than 5 times the subsistence student amount.

At one point, William gave Noy a portable computer. It was a lot of money, but Noy and William had discussed it. William planned it carefully, painstakingly loaded the Thai version of Windows and put the Thai characters on the keyboard.

William bought some things for Noy, and observed that Noy used only the finest and expensive name brand accessories. It was the only sensitive matter to William, as he didn't spend money on such things, but he loved her and thought that she was a quality lady, and wished to show that he wanted the best for her. By his own admission, he missed a warning sign there.

There was other information, too, which was basically some progressively emerging pressures to send ever more money to help Noy's family's needs.

Eventually, we reassessed the case, and decided to switch the case to a fully discreet case. It was still a missing person case, but we did not want to risk that she or anyone else would find out about an investigation and mislead it by proxies.

We had no current address on record, though we found out where her family was generally located in Chiang Mai province. Since she had been living in Bangkok for years, we first started to pursue Noy on the ground in Bangkok, using a female Thai agent who had attended Ramkamhaeng University, knew the area, and was employing a standard method for a case of this type.

To make a long story short, our agent found out that Noy had left a cold trail with most of her old acquaintances. Noy had borrowed money from some other people and owed them, which probably explained some of it -- hiding from creditors. However, Noy had basically just moved suddenly, with no advance notice to friends and associates, indeed had just disappeared as regards most of her old acquaintances ... and her trail was about a year cold. These were genuine responses from the sources, and they all pointed to the hotel she worked for. One day, Noy just moved without discussion.

Nonetheless, moving from lead to lead, the agent eventually found out about an acquaintance from that time period who had also worked at the hotel where William had met Noy. That friend turned out to be a bit dodgy herself, but the agent, posing as a simple old friend from Ramkamhaeng, found out Noy's subsequent step after the hotel job. The friend had not spoken to Noy for many months, and looked the agent in the eye in some brief intense ways when asking some questions about how she knew Noy (answer: from previous residence). (The cover story was simple. In investigations, cover stories and agents are usually simple, not tricky.) In short order, her friend capitulated in this face to face, Thai style encounter put on the spot (notably, phone calls would never get this info, only face to face, on the spot), responding:

Noy had moved to a job with an even more luxurious hotel almost a year before (which she didn't tell William), one of the newest and very best in Bangkok for foreign businessmen and wealthy tourists, and part of an international chain. For this hotel, she worked the lobby greeting guests and also served in the lounge. It seemed fairly clear that Noy's friend had not talked to Noy in quite some time. The Thai lady agent's "sixth sense" about Noy's friend was that this friend had a pretty intimate relationship with Noy in the past, and was seasoned about something or the other.

Our agent immediately changed into somewhat less casual dress and dashed off to this hotel (to minimize the chances that Noy's friend could find Noy in the mean time, though the previous encounter was innocuous enough). Again, thorough passthru surveillance did not find Noy. The agent phoned up to the Human Resources Department, and the initial reaction was "if you find her, tell us!" They were looking for Noy, too. Noy had quit there suddenly without any notice, and not returned some items to the hotel. By "quit", she just didn't show up one day when they expected her, and had disappeared. The hotel had been unable to reach her on the mobile phone, their only valid point of contact. (Again, obsolete Ramkamhaeng 39 address.) The date of disappearance was also mid-October.

We were contemplating how to approach co-workers at this hotel for information, as we had closed in to less than 3 months of Noy. The agent sat in the lobby lounge and watched things for awhile, especially the other lobby ladies. On the phone, the agent discussed with the office whether to approach Noy's former co-workers while she was still there, posing as a Ramkamhaeng friend. Another option might be to bring in a second, expat agent as a well dressed expat apparent businessman, just to probe their reaction to see which employee(s) might know Noy. In private investigations, there are many instances where you must make split second decisions. However, there are also times when you should decide to not take unnecessary risks, especially in discreet investigations, and should back off rather than take a risk. Cutting corners can blow a case and result in a failed "Sorry, we tried"... and in this case, we decided to wait until another day. One of the factors we considered was another, parallel investigative trail that had started to pan out.

To make another long story short, at about this time we had some results on Noy's family, based on some of the contact info we had retrieved from professional sources mentioned above. This led us to some family contact options.

At this point, we had no idea whether Noy was a renegade daughter from a respectable family (we see lots of those in the new generation), or a "family business" of scamming foreigners (we see lots of those, too). However, one thing was for sure: William was not concerned about being discreet any more, as his relationship with Noy was over, but William did want to know what happened. As we told William, we were staying discreet in order to find out the truth as he requested, not get a staged reaction to cover up the truth.

We decided to approach a particular sister working for a company in Bangkok. Posing as a friend from Ramkamhaeng University, we got instant results. Noy's sister was not tricky but seemed quite innocent, and told us Noy's recent history. It is highly probable that Noy's family had no idea what Noy had done, and may have been dismayed if they had known.

From Noy's sister, we found out that:

Noy had flown to the USA in mid-October with an American boyfriend she had met at the new hotel, flying out apparently very near the deadline day she had rushed William to wire his last money. She was still in the U.S. and we got the U.S. telephone number from her sister.

I must give William a lot of credit for handling this well. Initially, he had been understandably enraged due to the trickery and betrayal of his lover. However, by this point in time, as the story had already unfolded over several days -- the initial false statements regarding university attendance & graduation, and Noy's work history, William had calmed down. We had spent a lot of time talking with William on the phone, and had become friends. As a mature individual, William had come to terms with the reality that there is nothing you can realistically do after the fact in a situation like this, and animosity only hurts yourself, not the other person. William just wondered if Noy had much compassion for him.

In the end, William decided not to request that we give him the phone number. He decided not to call her or disturb her current relationship. He just sent her an email message telling her that he knew the truth, and expressing the hope that in the future she becomes a more spiritually considerate kind of person in her future life. He said that he will forgive her for her past, but that of course he will find another wife because he had found Noy to not be a trustworthy person. He hoped that Noy would respond by email, but Noy never did. Since Noy's mailbox on a well known service did not fill up with mail nor subsequently expire, it is highly probable that she received the message but simply did not reply.

Nonetheless, William was awed about how much money he had lost which he could have invested otherwise into his future, and wondered whether much of that money had just gone into a lady's fashion accessories. William was embarrassed to reveal the truth to his family and friends, though he did, and in fact posted his experience on the Internet (leaving out our names).

There is no insurance for the result of such a relationship after the fact.

The above case was a relatively difficult case to solve because we had so little information to start with, and the lady was apparently hiding from creditors, too -- debts to former friends and associates. The total time taken was a few days, mainly after it turned discreet and required slow, careful passthru surveillance and some discreet social interaction. Most cases are not this difficult.

Finally, we want to emphasize that most ladies who say they are Thai students are truly Thai students and not pulling tricks like the above. It is unfortunate that bad girls can result in internet stories to make foreigners more suspicious about, and reluctant to help, truly good students.

It is best to give people the benefit of the doubt, especially if they seem reasonable. However, if your Thai student girlfriend starts to pressure you to significantly increase the monthly payments with stories that seem a little odd, or if other things in her behavior seem suspicious, then you may want to consider verifying the information discreetly before sending a lot more money and investing a lot more of your time and heart.

Notably, there is no question that both hotels would have immediately terminated Noy's employment if they knew what she was doing. It is official hotel policy in most top class hotels that employees are not to do this kind of thing -- the official policy of the top management. How well each hotel is managed, in various departments, is another matter.

In reality, many hotels' employees do this kind of thing secretly and fairly routinely on their own. If you find a girlfriend referral operation in a hotel, just watch the employees' behavior during their operation. Sometimes, they are clearly keeping this secret from certain higher ups in the hotel, as they may clearly request the relationship be kept discreet. If a hotel hires friends and relatives of existing employees in order to create a smoother and more stable employee community, then there is an increased likelihood of this kind of conspiracy operation occuring at lower levels. Sometimes, they're really looking for a husband for a relative, and there is nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, sometimes they're just looking for another revenue stream in a tricky way.

Many ladies who work at a hotel and develop a relationship with a hotel customer are truly sincere, not promiscuous (either not promiscuous at all, or not too much for a client's value system), and not mainly just out for the guy's money.

Sample case studies of Thai girlfriends:

Introducing your optional expat PI - Mark

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