Falafel King Front for Drug Dealing in Chiang Mai
According to the Chiang Mai Immigration Bureau's Division 5, the gang had been under police survelliance for some time before the arrest because Herzel was wanted both by US and Canadian police on suspicion of being apart of a marjor drug dealing gang.
The DEA had informed the Chiang Mai police that Mr Herzel had opened up shop in Chaing mai called the Falafel King restaurant on Chai Si Phum Road in Muang district.
Pol Maj Gen Thitirat alleged the gang opened the restaurant as a front for their drug business.
Mr Herzel's wife managed both businesses and supplied various illegal drugs including cannabis, heroin, crystal methamphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy to tourists in Chiang Mai.
"They opened the restaurant simply to hide the illicit business of selling drugs to foreigners," said Pol Maj Gen Thitirat.
"If any customer said 'yes' to the restaurant's 'special service' on the menu, they could shop for various types of drugs as if they were in a 7-Eleven store and then go upstairs to take them," he said.
By coincidence, while the authorities were investigating the gang's activities at the restaurant, two male tourists lodged a complaint with immigration police on May 19, claiming they were being blackmailed by Mr Herzel and Mrs Thasani.
Jan Pieter Rutter, 22, from Belgium, and John Eric Crabtree, from the United States, told the police that after buying the drugs at the Falafel King restaurant, Mrs Thasani called Mr Phichet, who impersonated a police officer, to arrest the two.
Mr Rutter and Mr Crabtree claimed Mr Phichet then took them to an ATM and told them to withdraw 45,000 baht and give it to him in exchange for their freedom.
Phichet: Imitated a police officer he then took away the tourists' ID as a guarantee that they each would later pay him a further 100,000 baht, they said.
The pair told the police that Mr Phichet threatened they would both be killed if they went to the police.
"This gang had Mr Phichet pretend to be a police officer because he looked like one: tall and with a police-like hairstyle," said Pol Maj Gen Thitirat.
"Normally, the gang's victims would agree to pay the money and then would leave the country for fear of facing legal action because they really did use the drugs," he said.
Pol Maj Gen Thitirat said Mr Rutter and Mr Crabtree decided to go to the police because they feared the gang would continue to demand money.
On May 26, the Chiang Mai provincial court approved a request by the police to arrest the suspects. After a raid on the Falafel King restaurant the same day, Mr Herzel, Mrs Thasani and Mr Phichet were arrested.
A fourth gang member, a Canadian national identified only as Brandon, or nicknamed Boomer, is still at large, police said.
Further investigation revealed the gang had tribesfolk in Pai district of neighbouring Mae Hong Son province supply the drugs.
Police said they were keeping a close eye on similar transnational drug gangs from Denmark, Belgium and the US which were also believed to be blackmailing their customers.
Victims should report their cases instead of agreeing to pay the gangs, the police said.