None of these crimes deserved jail time. My violent streak never came to the attention of the police. My drug deals were strictly small-time. I avoided contact with the Mafia. They were as dangerous as the Hell's Angels, Hamburg pimps, Colombian cocaine dealers, and conniving transvestites.My mother had warned me about these people."If you see trouble coming, walk the other way."I was near-sighted, so trouble found me long before I noticed its approach.Luckily my Uncle Carmine told his wayward nephews the Golden Rule."Only break one law at a time."His advice stood us well and I avoided any serious complications with the law for twenty-two years, however no one's lucky streak can challenged the odds forever and in January 2008 I returned to Central Pattaya after a pleasant seafood lunch with my steady girlfriend in Jomtien.It was a good life.I was living alone in the most wicked town on the planet. My website selling counterfeit Ferrari and assorted F1 merchandise was # 1 in the Google search engines. The weather was cool and I had shipped a big order of McLaren driver suits to Germany. Another week of good sales and I would be out of debt, then I could get my yellow teeth whitened to a brilliant white.I entered my estate off Soi Bongkot and parked my motorscooter before my rented house. Another month and the mango tree would bear fruit. Everyone in the neighborhood waited the harvest with lip-smacking anticipation.A mini-van stopped behind me. At first I thought it was my brother-in-law coming for a beer and I wondered why he brought so many friends.
Why?Because it wasn't Pi-Wot but the Bangkok police to arrest me for copyright infringement. The oldest officer in a black suit presented a search warrant. The other cops were undercover in jeans, tee-shirts, and sneakers. I was wearing sandals. Running was not an option. I opened the gate, then the doors to my office.
They politely took off their shoes and entered my office. Twenty F1 shirts lay in plastic bags on the floor. They seized the merchandise and the ranking officer asked, “Where’s the rest of it?”
“That’s it.” Business has been off this year. A computer geek sat at my computer. He wanted the codes to my site. Refusal was out of the question. Cooperation was rewarded with leniency, but tonight looked like i would be spending the evening in a monkey house. They were never comfortable.“Can I go outside?” I wasn't needed for the dismantling of f1 shopping. The long-haired geek knew his business and his fingers swept over my keyboard like a tsunami.
The commander nodded and two cops accompanied into the garden and I hyperventilated, as a series of prospective scenarios played in my head. Most of them were finished in jail.One of the younger cops told me to calm down, “Jai yen. Jai yen.”"That's easy for you to say." I had seen MIDNIGHT EXPRESS more than once.He wasn’t being arrested in a foreign country.
“No big problem. Maybe 2000 baht.” He explained the fine would be about $60. “We take you Bangkok. You pay bail and then go home. Mai pen lai." American detective from Quantico Ltd. was supervising the operation. His company had been looking for me a long time. Rusty was a Yale graduate. HIs online persona had emailed that his mother wouldn't allow his use of her credit card and I had accepted a western union wire to my real name. I had mailed him merchandise, but had written phony addresses on the envelopes, thinking that might protected me.At least it was a comfort that my ex-wife hadn't sold me out to the tam-luau.How they had tracked me back to Soi Sawan was unimportant, but Rusty also said it wasn't such a big deal. "Not the first time. Next time you go to jail."
"Message well taken." I had been trying to quit for ages. "I don't want to go to jail.
Jail in Thailand is a bare floor with thirty-plus other misfortunates.
"You won't." Rusty had arrested scores of counterfeiters."You seem like a smart person. Why are you doing this?" I hated snitches."Why did you do this?" Rusty was in his thirties. HIs Thai was impeccable."So I could stay in Thailand." The other employment opportunities were either a low-paying teaching job or running a bar. "We all do what we have to do."
The old lady on the street came up to me. I paid her to clean my house. She had received perfume for Christmas. The police had questioned her about me several times and she had never said a word. I also hated people who didn't snitch."I tell police you good man." Thai police studied the ways of the Gestapo. Thailand had a long fascist tradition. The only up for informers were the police."Thanks." Her testimony was the best a woman in her position could do for a farang."These police not same Pattaya. Honest. Not worry.""Sure." I always worried when people tell me not to worry, but the police never cuffed me or confiscated my telephone. The older officer asked if i had any drugs in the house. I told him the truth."Ganga no problem. Get rid of it."He sent me into the house and I flushed the two joints down the toilet.When I came out, he asked, "You want beer?""Yeah." It couldn't hurt and I reached into my pocket."Mai, mai." He waved his hand in the air and leaned forward. "I talk with everyone and they say you good man. I will take care of you. I not like other farang."He was speaking about Rusty and his employers. The old lady had said that they were honest, but this arrest was unlike any that I had seen on Sophon Cable or read in the Bangkok Post.After two hours of checking my computer and packing the merchandise, they transported me to Bangkok in an air-conditioned mini-van.
Halfway to the Sathon Police Station they stopped for food and bought a bag filled with McDonald’s Happy Meal. This was not my last meal and I realized how fortunate I was to have been arrested by Federal police.
A Thai friend in Bangkok met me at the police station. His face said COP same as mine. Khim worked as a chauffeur. He explained the process and said, "Small problem. You get bail. Go home."
Strangely everyone was very polite to me. My holding cell was an office with AC and a TV with my choice of DVDs. I didn’t feel like watching anything as I was reading Peter Hopkirk's THE GREAT GAME.
Later TV crews showed up for a show. The commanding officer for copyright infringement pointed to a pile of two-thousand shirt. “This farang was caught with 4 million baht and 2000 shirts."“No, khun tam pit." I whispered under my breath. He had made a mistake and I pointed to a single bag down the corridor. "Those are these.”
“These?” Someone had properly not briefed him.
"Yes, 20 shirts. Nothing more."
He waved to the TV crew to shut off the camera. End of interview.
The arresting officers laughed at their boss.
I sat in an AC office watching TV. Movie of my choice. INSIDE MAN. I was fingerprinted and filled out an arrest form. When the cops announced bail of 50k. I said I didn't have it.
"Mai mee kap." Speaking polite Thai helps in situations like this.
"30?" There was no way they were dropping to 20 or 25.
30 it was. A little less than $1000.
Khim and I said, "Yet mah." or motherfucker.
We were short the bail. I had 15 k in the bank and Khim had 500. Nu couldn't sell a motorcycle until tomorrow. The monkey house loomed as a probability instead of a possibility. No beds, no blankets, cheap rice twice a day, and lots of mosquitoes. The antithesis of the worst Bangkok in Bangkok.
I made one phone one call. The Old Roue lived in on Soi Nana. I knew him from New York. I asked for 20K. He had 15K. Khim drove over to Soi 4 and picked it up. Without the Old Roue I would have been in the monkey house for who knows how long. I called him to say thanks every few days and also let him know I'm still broke.."No problem man, you get it when you get it."
The whole process from raid to release took seven hours with a two-hour trip to Bangkok thrown into the program. The Fed cops had me sign an affidavit confirming no one had asked for a sin bon or bribe.
After the money was paid they cut me loose. Khim spent 200 baht on 5 bottles of Khang. I drank 3 of them myself.I went to sllep happy that I didn't spend any time in the 'monkey house'. No chairs, no fans, and lots of mosquitoes as a prelude to the Bangkok Hilton, the Koong Toey jail.
I appeared on national TV that night. Channel 5. The Army station. The police had said, “Not worry. Not many people watch Channel 5.”
Everyone on my soi saw the newscast.
Several Thai friends said I looked handsome. They couldn’t care less that I was arrested. It’s something that happens.
Everyone was astounded by this revelation of how much money I had. "You have 4 million baht."
My old lady who cleaned my house knew the truth. I was broke and wished I had the 4 million baht. I could get a job at the local school teaching English and make about $300/month. 10,000 baht. 300/baht a day is a big comedown from 3000 baht a day.
This story is far from over, since the cops said it would be at least 6-10 weeks until I go to court.
Another day in paradise has gotten a little less paradisaical, but it's always better to be free.