This Woman Received the Longest Prison Sentence of All Time

This Woman Received the Longest Prison Sentence of All Time

Lindsay Stidham - April 14, 2017

Chamoy Thipyaso seemed innocent enough. She was the wife of a high ranking member of the Royal Thai Air Force and an employee of the Petroleum Authority for Thailand. This gave her a very powerful position in society. It also eventually gave her the longest prison sentence in history. She was involved in a pyramid scheme that defrauded 16,000 Thai people out of approximately 300 million dollars.

Thipyaso started a chit fund in the late 1960s called the Mae Chamoy Fund (Mae being the Thai word for Mother). The fund was made to look like an oil share with high returns. Chit funds were popular in Thailand and India at this time. A chit fund is officially defined as: “a transaction whether called chit, chit fund, chitty, kuree or by any other name by or under which a person enters into an agreement with a specified number of persons that every one of them shall subscribe a certain sum of money (or a certain quantity of grain instead) by way of periodical installments over a definite period and that each such subscriber shall, in his turn, as determined by lot or by auction or by tender or in such other manner as may be specified in the chit agreement, be entitled to the prize amount.”

This Woman Received the Longest Prison Sentence of All Time
Daily Express

Thipyaso’s connections with the Air Force and Petroleum Authority made it appear that she had the military’s backing with her endeavor. This made people feel safe when they invested. It also allowed the fund to survive for some time, and people bought in big time. The scheme drew in 16,231 clients. It took major investigation and time to shut it down in the 1980s. Initially it was thought that so many powerful people stood to loose so much money that the government might have to actually bail out the fund, as well as several banks involved.

Some of the reasons cited for the huge success of the Mae Chamoy Fund include–people just wanted to truly believe this was real, military investors pressured subordinates to invest as well, big time investors were threatened that if they took their money out the would be blacklisted from ever investing again.

Apparently people were still investing even after learning it was a Ponzi scheme. Their rationale? It bought them time to live a good life until it was discovered the jig was up and none of it was real, and it would also allow them time to get their finances in order before the fund collapsed. Much of the Mae Fund indeed echoes Bernie Madoff investors as well.

Investors included some very political powerful people in Thailand, and even members of the Royal Household. After some discussions with King Bhumibol Adulyadei the fund was finally shut down and Thipyaso was arrested. Details of what exactly was discussed with the king have long-since been kept under wraps.

This Woman Received the Longest Prison Sentence of All Time
Thai Currency. 1000 Baht

Thipyaso was held in secret by the air force, and her trial did not occur until the losses for the military and royal personnel involved had been recovered. Her trial was then taped, but details remain completely sealed likely to protect the royal palace and any and all royals involved. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of less important people in the country (who could not afford special prosecutors) lost all of their savings tied up in the fund. There were rumors of coups left and right in Thailand during this time.

On July 27, 1989 Thipyaso was convicted of corporate fraud. She was found guilty of defrauding over 16,000 people in a pyramid scheme valued at over $204 million. Seven accomplices were sentenced as well.

The sentence was the most outrageous part: a total of 141,078 years in prison but Thai law at the time stated that the maximum sentence that could be served for fraud was 20 years. In the United States a sentence so long might be considered illegal, albeit, the longest American jail sentence clocks in at 10,000 years. Judges and juries do indeed have a lot of power when deciding a sentence. In actuality, Thipyaso only served about eight years in jail thanks to a Thai law passed in 1989 that maxed out jail sentencing time. That said, Thipyaso has remained out of the limelight since her release. Press on Thipyaso is scarce, but that’s likely what happens when you risk the balance of entire country’s economy with your Ponzi scheme.

Bizarrely, Thailand remains a hotbed for nascent Ponzi schemes. Digital currency Ponzi schemes such as UFUN and MyCoin are currently the most prevalent and police have to crack down on them regularly. One would think such epic sentencing, and the near-collapse of entire government due to one scheme would be a lesson worth learning, but where there’s money and greed, there is indeed still lawlessness. Word to the wise, Ponzi-schemers, there’s easier ways to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records.