Georgian man detained for swindling $30,000 from money changer

By Le Tan   March 18, 2023 | 09:40 pm PT
Georgian man detained for swindling $30,000 from money changer
Sordia Gia at a police station in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by police
Police in the northern city of Hai Phong detained a Georgian man Saturday for cheating a money changer out of US$30,000 by switching it with envelops of paper.

Sordia Gia, 55, is under investigation for "fraudulent appropriation of property."

Police said Gia has stayed in Vietnam for several years on a tourist visa.

In February, he and another Georgian frequently visited a jewelry shop on Cho Hang Street in Hai Phong’s Le Chan District to exchange Vietnamese banknotes for dollars.

Gradually, he became a familiar face at the shop.

On the evening of Feb. 27, Gia brought three envelopes to the shop, each of them having a transparent window that allowed others to see what was inside.

He told the shop owner that he wanted to exchange Vietnamese dong for $30,000 in cash. When given the $30,000, he divided the cash into the three envelopes he had brought.

Then, when the shop owner was not paying attention, Gia swapped those three envelopes with three other envelopes that he had prepared in his backpack. The swapped envelopes looked exactly like the original ones and at the transparent window, Gia had put a $100 note in each to trick the shop owner.

He put some vig stacks of Vietnamese dong notes on the table to draw the shop's attention.

But then he told the owner that he realized he did not bring enough Vietnamese cash to exchange for the US$30,000 and would return later. He gave the three envelops containing $300 the shop owner, who thought they contained the shop's $30,000 in the first place.

After Gia left the shop, the owner checked the three envelopes and realized that they had been swapped. Each envelope had just one US$100 bill behind the transparent window, with the rest just pieces of paper.

The shop reported the incident to the police. When police tracked Gia down, they found that he had already left for Hanoi, from where he flew to Ho Chi Minh City.

On Feb. 28, Gia was arrested as soon as he touched down at Tan Son Nhat International Airport.

When Hai Phong police looked further into the case, they discovered that Gia had used the same trick to steal money at jewelry shops in several localities.

He could communicate in Vietnamese but he always pretended he could not understand the language and always used Google Translate to exchange money, making it confusing for the jewelry shop owners so that he could distract them more easily.

Gia had planned to flee to Cambodia from Ho Chi Minh City via illegal trails.

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