‘I LEFT WHEN I WAS ASKED TO REMOVE BODY OF AMERICAN BAG MAN’
The American-Thai McCleary brothers, John and James, who were convicted along with six Thai policemen of the kidnap of American boiler room boss Mark Hutcherson in 2007, and jailed for 18 years, after denying the charges, also plan to expose their former British paymaster, now a leading figure in the country’s sex entertainment and nightlife business.
Now safely home in the United States, a publisher has also been secured for their book, and they will discuss the treatment next month. It may be a Bangkok prison book with a difference.
|(Thai Press Report of the McClearys’s arrest)|
The McClearys, who were released early last September after the latest Royal Pardons issued by the King of Thailand, say they are also willing to tour Australia and European countries, to explain to victims who lost hundreds of millions of dollars, why the major boiler room scammers in Thailand were never caught.
“When we were deported after our jail terms a former friend who had been in the business slipped US$4000 into my bag at Suvarnabhumi airport and said: ‘Do what you have to do. Its unfinished, ‘John McCleary said.
“An immigration officer told me I could not return to Thailand for nine years. I told him I would not return in 1000 years,” added John from Missouri.
Both brothers, John and James, bulky and 6ft 8” and 6ft 5” respectively, were born in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, sons of an American airman and his Thai wife. They speak English and Thai fluently, and had returned to Thailand to start a travel business.
But when that business failed, due, they said, to corrupt officials, they were offered work by US ‘businessmen’ in Bangkok. They started off working the phones but because of their knowledge of Thai their role became to ‘liaise with the Thai authorities’, they said.
What the job meant was that they were now the ‘bagmen’ delivering large sums of cash to high ranking police whose real cash came from crime, not stopping it.
Among their first employers were Americans Daniel Sterk and Stephen Robert Casciola who ran the International Asset
Management boiler room out of 8th and 11th floors of ‘Q’ House in Bangkok’s, Convent Road. With them was their chief ‘loader’ from Birmingham, UK, who, taking the name ‘Paul Hilton’, had risen quickly through the ranks.
The boiler rooms were thriving with the co-operation of Thai police, claimed, John McCleary.
“Each time I travelled every month to the various police offices, or nearby locations like coffee-shops. My brother followed on behind with other ‘guards’ who would check out the area for anyone suspicious, if it was a new client.
“I estimated that we paid out between US£600 – US$700,000 a month.” He said that cash was distributed between Immigration Police at Suan Phlu, the Crime Suppression Division near Chatuchak, the Economic Crimes Division of the CSD, in North Sathorn Road, plus smaller payments elsewhere for individual favours.”
But in August 2001 under pressure from the Australian Federal Police, Thai police, accompanied by US law enforcement officials, raided International Asset Management, the Brinton Group, in Bangkok City Tower, and Foreign Currency International in Asoke, run by American James Muller, all linked to multiple boiler room fraud, were raided by the Thai police.
|Raid on the Brinton Group in Bangkok City Tower – FBI man in foreground in jacket|
To the outside world this looked like a big coup – and was promoted as a triumph of international co-operation. And there was considerable anger amongst the boiler room bosses, because, claimed the McClearys, they had paid the police more than ample cash to leave them alone.
“When International Asset Management was raided, we were forewarned, so all the bosses were out of the building. There were a few bodies around including Paul who was caught on the 11th floor. He called me and he was crying and begging for help. He might have been a smart dealer, but when it appeared he was going to be locked up he went to pieces.”
Paul Hilton, however, did escape prosecution. That was because, as it turned out, there were no serious prosecutions. The raids in Bangkok were among very few worldwide where the boiler room operators were actually caught in flagrante delicto. Police had the computers. They had the bodies. They had the scripts. They had the complaints from victims, and they had the bank accounts. It was an ugly picture.
Police did however seize a mammoth amount of cash and, after years of class action brought by victims through the Sukhothai Inter Law in Bangkok, released US$11 million to the victims of I.A.M. This was merely cash kept in the safe.
But in all other cases no attempt was made to go after the cash (all in banks in Hong Kong and outside Thailand) and all Sterk and Casciola were accused of was breaking Security Exchange Commission regulations, to wit “SEC Thailand has filed criminal complaint against these offenders on the conspiracy of operating securities businesses in Thailand without having licenses and engaging in fraudulent activities with the Office of the Economic Crime Investigation Division of the Royal Thai Police for further investigation. Such aforementioned activities are in contravention of Section 90 of the Securities and Exchange Act B.E. 2535 with Section 83 of the Penal Code, and Section 343 of the Penal Code with Section 83 of the Penal Code.”
Another IAM member Paul Richard Bell aka Dr. Richard King (NFA ID 0022445) was busted in Australia while working for International Asset Management and Trident International along with Danny Sterk and Stephen Robert Casciola – restrained from leaving and subsequently convicted.
He pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to 21 charges laid by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in relation to his activities as a cold-caller operating out of Thailand and the Philippines.
However, he was released with a fine of AUS$12,000 and a suspended prison sentence, despite Australian government claims they were cracking down on the fraudsters.
(Bell was photographed later in Pattaya signing up to ‘Optimists International’ a Pattaya Branch of the charity founded by American conman Drew Noyes from Wilmington, North Carolina, self-styled foreign advisor to the Mayor Ittiphol Khunphleum*.
Optimists International was forced to shut down after money irregularities and Drew Noyes has since skipped bail while appealing and prison sentence for extortion. Bell died of heart failure three years ago).
|Drew Noyes with CSD chief (now removed)|
*The Mayor’s father, Eastern Seaboard Godfather Somchai, was given a Royal Pardon at the same time as the McClearys. He had been jailed for murder and fraud)
|Cartoon of Jon Kealy taken from his offices|
Similarly at the Brinton Group, which was raided at the same time as IAM, John Martin Kealy, of County Tipperary, Ireland, Ronan Joseph Murray, of Dublin, Ireland, Paul Mary Hickey, Scott Campbell Fisher, Jason Garrick Rich, Adrian Robert Wallis and Steven Hooper were also found to have engaged in illegally conducting securities businesses without having obtained a license from the SEC Thailand. Such activity is an offense under their SEC Act and is punishable by maximum jail terms not exceeding 5 years and a fine not exceeding 500,000 baht.
The Crime Suppression Division announced they would be charged with fraud as well but a year later the Thai SEC said in a statement that it had “used its every effort” to gather evidence regarding the fraud charges, but it could not control how they would be used by the public prosecutor; nor could it explain why the prosecutor had dismissed the charges.
The directors were fined between 300,000 and 500,000 Thai baht and the 78 ‘sales people’ arrested at the time were deported for working without permits. But many, like Canadian Stephen Sharpe*, were back on the next plane from Kuala Lumpur. In the cash of Sharpe, he wishes he had never returned.
(Stephen Sharpe, aka Birt, was later arrested and charged in the Philippines with rape of a minor and possessing drugs after quitting a Hilton boiler room operation and whistle-blowing on a Hayward boiler room in Thonglor 25, Bangkok. His arrest was investigated by the Philippines Human Rights Commission and after three years in custody he was acquitted of all charges.
According to the McClearys who spoke to other boiler room staff serving time in Klong Prem Prison for drugs offences, the arrest of Sharpe was managed by Hilton’s partner Mark Hutcherson, who was running boiler room operations in Manila at the time)
Now instead of boiler rooms renting large offices in the city centre, Bangkok’s boiler room bosses split their teams into houses and rented apartments and set up operations in Pattaya and the Northern Capital Chiang Mai.
|Shaun Graham (third body in) caught napping in Cambodia. The room was closed down by the Cambodian authorities. No serious arrests|
‘Paul Hilton’, as he was known, took with him another Brit Shaun Graham, from I.A.M, and set up a series of boiler room scams operating out of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and even Cambodia, the latter headed up by Graham.
Cash was coming in fast again from the operations running under the company names Jackson Cole, (selling SecureTee shares) Smith-Fairchild and Hilton also invested in Romania in another operation set up by Graham under the name Carver Brooks and Associates. Hilton kept a house with a Thai wife in Thonglor and an apartment in Omni Tower, Sukhumvit, Soi 4 and he continued to drink in ‘Shenanigans’ in Convent Road, and prowl private members clubs for more discreet sex, claim the Clearlys.
Said John: “He changed from being a Brit yob, to designer suits and Rolex watches and I was delivering his monthly cash payments to police but I never treated him with any respect and was not scared of him…. He was however utterly ruthless with his enemies. He could change his cloths but he was still a yob.
“He flew me once to King Edward’s Wharf in Sheepcote Road, Birmingham to collect a debt there from an Irishman. I saw the debt was paid and flew back to Bangkok where my bonus was US$10,000 on top of the US$50,000 a month he was paying me.
|King Edward’s Wharf, Birmingham|
“But I quit at the time I was asked to remove a body from Omni Tower of a former US Marine from Alabama called Cameron who was the money man. He organised the cash which came into Thailand for laundering into the night life businesses and which came through the Malaysian border in the boots of cars, arranged by a woman called ‘Sumalee’ or through ‘walk-throughs’ at Bangkok airport with the aid of corrupt immigration officials. I met Sumalee many times.
“I knew I was working for fraudsters. But neither my brother of I had any criminal record – and we were doing business Thai style. But getting involved in Cameron’s death was not on our agenda. The official line was that he had overdosed. The unofficial line was that he had been held down and injected with an overdose of heroin. I knew Cameron had been a cocaine user, but never heroin. It was available but he would not touch the stuff and swore he would never.”
After International Assets, Hilton had gone into business with Glennon Bullard, an American boiler room operators from Georgia, and Mark Hutcherson, Americans Dan Prather, and Gary Lloyd, and between them they set up boiler room scams operating all over Asia from Kuala Lumpur, to Jakarta and Manila.
But while this partnership was at its peak Hilton was kidnapped by Thai police from outside the Thai CC building in Sathorn Road, according to the McClearys.
“He had been taken to police offices above the Pyathai Fire station in Bangkok where the officers were more interested in his cash. The police called me in to negotiate. Obviously, they knew my former role.
“The police were matter of fact about it. I remember watching detectives play hi-lo (a Thai gambling card game) while they were waiting.”
“Paul ended paying out some US$800,000.”
“Paul assumed I was the instigator because of my role in the negotiations, and because there was no love lost between us.
“I knew he was trying to set me up with something and we had had a face-off in the Sheraton Hotel in Sukhumvit after I was told he was trying to set me up with drugs.
|Hutcherson. Staged picture by
police showing his detention
“So when Mark Hutcherson was kidnapped in April 2007 James and I were framed for that kidnapping.
“The police were guilty alright. All except one, who was arrested too because he was my friend.
“But I did not know any of the others at all. They were a mix of immigration CSD and Metropolitan police none of whom I had dealt with, and all were surprised to see James and I charged alongside them asking who on earth we were!”
The kidnapping of Hutcherson did make the media. This was because Phaphada who is the half-sister of former Governor of Bangkok Apirak Kosayodhin reported the matter to the United States Embassy, rather than the Thai police, thus the kidnapping had to be reported as a crime.
But on media releases Hutcherson was described as an American businessman in the oil business.
“In that case Hutcherson had already paid out US$400,000 and when we were arrested we were told that unless the money was recovered we would die in jail. As it happened James and I were given 18 years in jail while the police officers only got 12. And they were released before us,” claimed John McCleary.
The quick release of Hutcherson, who died in June 2015 aged 54 in Plano, Texas, was an indication that plans were in place should another kidnapping of boiler room fraudsters take place. It also explains why around that time one boiler room operator complained about kidnappings to me – using the plural. It appears there may have been others.
Hutcherson’s death coupled with the death of Glendon Richard Bullard, also former President of the Thai chapter of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, in Pai, Mae Hong Son Province in March 2015 brought Paul Hilton to the top of the Bangkok boiler room pile, where he remains today, while maintaining a front as s nightclub entrepreneur.
FOOTNOTE: Paul Hilton first came attention to the City Fraud Squad (City of London Police Economic Crime Unit at about the same time as money advisers at the Guardian newspaper were warning of boiler rooms being carried out by a person using this name. An alert was put out for Hilton in Hong Kong the officer in charge of the case in Hong Kong was a Det. Sgt Steve Berry who was liaising with a then Det. Sgt. Nigel Howard of the City of London police, specialising in boiler rooms.
Unfortunately, they thought Paul Hilton’s name really was Paul Hilton, not Hayward, and in Hong Kong detained a photographer of the same name while investigating a Hilton scam going under the boiler room names ‘The Roth Group’ and ‘Premium Placements’.
The investigation continued through 2016 but though officially not closed does not appear to have had any positive results.
Hilton has recently expressed his desire to return to the UK and large funds have been deposited in British banks should he wish to. He continues to control large swathes of the Thai tourist sex industry but companies are bought and sold on a regular basis. The Thai Department of Special Investigations and Anti-Money Laundering Office have both been provided with comprehensive lists of Hilton’s acquisitions.
In addition, the Serious Organised Crime Agency were provided with documents taken from the Hilton organisation giving details of accounts and lists of all British victims involved in the Jackson Cole scam. These were not seen by the City Fraud Squad.
Both fraud squad detectives, Berry and Howard have now retired. Berry on his retirement joined as head of security for HSBC Hong Kong, one of the banks implicated in handling boiler room
* Some but not all of the officers involved in the taking of bribes were cleared out of the Thai police during the purge of the Central Investigation Bureau and Crime Suppression Division in 2014 – when an estimated 80 per cent of officers were dismissed.
* Finally the good news. In conversations with John McCleary it became clear that two men exposed on this site Canadian boiler room scam Frank Giannini and Sahid O’Connor did do serious time in prison having been exposed on this site. This will be good news for Philip ‘Mr.Bean’ who provided the information leading to their arrest and who was treated abysmally by Thai Police. Giannini first escaped charges after he ran down and killed two people in Pattaya where he was reported to have equipment for smoking drugs in his car. He was later arrested on Bean’s evidence for possession of heroin at his boiler room in Lat Krabang Bangkok. In earlier reports on information from U.S. authorities I was informed these men had been released prematurely. In fact they were released on a a Royal Pardon at the same times as the McClearys.
The kidnap of Mark Hutcherson
The rise of Paul Hilton
Daniel Sterk Stephen Casciola and the International Asset Management Scam
The death of Glen Bullard
Bangkok Boiler Rooms. The Money trail
Paul Richard Bell
Boiler Room Druggie