Four arrested, fake IDs seized in raid on soccer pitch gang

March 01, 2019 14:35
CSTCB Superintendent Swalikh Mohammed (center) said the syndicate could have earned around HK$1 million since it started the illicit business. Photo: HKEJ

Police arrested four suspected members of a syndicate who used fake identity cards to book public soccer pitches and resell their bookings for a higher price.

Superintendent Swalikh Mohammed of the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau (CSTCB) said police acted on a report received in January from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), which suspected that some people were using fake Hong Kong ID cards to book public soccer pitches, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The four suspects, aged 23 to 43, were arrested in a raid in Kowloon on Tuesday. 

During the operation, police also seized 124 fake ID cards, some of which bore different numbers but the same names, birth dates, dates of issue and photos, as well as a laptop, a printer, and a number of blank cards apparently used for the forgery.

The four, including three males, were arrested for conspiracy to defraud and using false instruments.

Police said the operation was continuing, and more people could be arrested in connection with the case.

On June 20 last year, the LCSD launched the Turf Soccer Pitches Balloting Pilot Scheme in response to strong public demand for turf soccer pitches, as one of the two new measures to fight against touting activities.

Under the pilot scheme, sessions at turf soccer pitches under its management are allocated by balloting while the remaining sessions are available for booking after the deadline on a first-come, first-served basis, with a view to providing a fair and impartial booking mechanism.

As those who want to book the turf soccer pitches can do so through the Leisure Link e-Services System (LLES) to join a lottery pool, the group was found to have used a number of fake IDs to increase their chances of getting a booking.

According to Mohammed, the suspects, who had previously organized a private seven-a-side football league among amateur players, began collecting copies of ID cards and used their personal details to print fake IDs.

They then used the fake IDs to create 334 LLES accounts to join the balloting and book soccer pitches after the pilot scheme was launched.

After successful bookings, the suspects either used the pitches to hold matches and charge between HK$2,800 and HK$10,500 from each participating team or resold them for a profit.

Mohammed estimated that the syndicate could have made around HK$1 million since starting the illicit business.

Asked how the group could pull off the fraud when the LCSD always checks the ID of a person who makes a successful booking, CSCTB Senior Inspector Cheng Chak-yan said the fake IDs were of high quality and the attached chips, which were taken from IDs of children, were genuine.

To prevent ID frauds, the LCSD said it will review the current application procedures adopted by the LLES, adding that it has reminded staff to be more vigilant when checking and processing applications.

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