Update: Thimphu district court’s bench three sentenced a 39-year-old woman to five years in prison for conning 37 people of more than Nu 10.8M.

In the judgement passed yesterday, Sonammo from Kazhi in Wangduephodrang was found guilty of violating section 241 (C) of the Penal Code of Bhutan. The section states that a defendant, who obtains property of another by deception or cheating, is guilty of larceny. “A defendant deceives or cheats another person if the defendant fails to correct a false impression that the defendant previously created or reinforced,” the penal code states.

The court verdict stated that Sonammo, in accordance to section 18 (A) and 244 of the Penal Code, was liable for five years to nine years in prison. “The court is sentencing her to five years because the defendant does not have criminal record.”

Section 18 (A) states that the offence graded as value based under this Code shall be a felony of third degree if the value or the amount involved in the crime exceed the total amount of the daily minimum national wage rate at the time of the crime for a period of thirty years or more.

Section 244 states the offence of larceny shall be a value based sentencing.

The verdict also stated that Sonammo pleaded guilty and claimed that she committed the crime because of her greed for money.

It was learnt that Sonammo promised 43 people employment in the United States and the 43 people paid about Nu 300,000 each. However, only 37 people lodged complaint against her as some people got their money back.

The issue came to light in May this year, when a Khenpo from Shingkhar Lauri in Jomotsangkha reported to Thimphu police that a woman, who claimed to be a visa agent working for two American women, defrauded him of Nu 7.8M. The Khenpo paid visa fees for 26 people from Shingkhar Lauri.

Sonammo claimed that she was working for two wealthy women in USA, who owned a 51-storey shopping mall there. She claimed three other Bhutanese women also worked for the two women from USA. It was, however, found to be false.

She went missing in May but police later arrested her.

The court verdict also stated that Sonammo should repay the amount to the 37 people within three months and the Office of Attorney General (OAG) should do the restitution and distribute among the victims.

Tashi Dema