Conmen targetting women via social media platforms and matrimonial bureaus in Pune

The Pune city police has received 14 complaints from women in the last six months claiming they were duped by conmen whom they met either online or through marriage bureaus.

The women, all of whom were wealthy, claimed that the conmen would woo them with the false promise of marriage and then borrow money from them to kick-start their business or for an expensive gift from abroad.

Pune city police’s cyber cell is probing the case. The conmen took around Rs 1.36 crore from the women.

Some of the victims spoke to mid-day about their harrowing experience.

One of the complainants is a 47-year-old Jain woman, who has an 18-year-old daughter and worked as a manager in a MNC company and had lost her husband a decade back. She joined and subsequently met a ‘businessman’ from London, who duped her to the tune to Rs 47 lakh in a span of one-and-half month. To provide the guy the funds, she even mortgaged her house and later sold it to repay the loan. A case was registered with Swargate police station in November 2015 against a person name Roman Bezus.

The woman recalled, “I lost my husband ten years back in a road accident. Later as a single parent I raised my daughter. Now she is going to college. She is busy in her own world and I plan to remarry. I went with my daughter to enroll myself on the portal in June 2015, and on the same day got a couple of good proposals. Being a Jain, I did not want to have a Jain family considering my daughter would suffer from this. I selected Roman Bezus from his profile and started interacting with him. He started calling me every second day and for a month we chatted and planned to marry post Christmas. It was Diwali and my daughter was turning 18. Roman, who claimed he ran a mall in London, planned to send me a gift for Diwali which included laptops, iPhone for me and my daughter, a diamond necklace and mangalsutra for me.”

She went on, “Roman was ready to accept my daughter and had even asked me to begin with my passport and visa process. He usually talked to me on phone and on WhatsApp, but never shared any pictures. Towards August-end and October I was to receive some ornaments and other electronic gadgets from him. But he later claimed that customs has detained all of it and I had to pay Rs 12 lakh cash as security, which would be returned to me in a few months time with 5 per cent rate of interest. I withdrew my husband’s insurance fixed deposit. I was then asked to transfer the amount into a Peter Thomas’ account, who he said was his friend in New Delhi. Later, an additional amount of Rs 20 lakh was transferred for which I took a personal loan from a co-operative bank by mortgaging my 2-BHK flat in Sahakarnagar. Later on three more occasions, he demanded Rs 5 lakh in his friend’s name -- Yash Ahuja in New Delhi.”

“I later realised that I had spent around Rs 47 lakh on this man. Later I realised that he was abusing my emotions. I then called him and asked him to repay the sum, but he then started to block my calls. I then sold my house and now stay at Bibewadi with my daughter. He played with my emotions and cheated me of the money. I just pray to god daily he should be arrested and I must get the amount.”

Heena’s daughter said, "He used to talk to me as if he was my father. I was also a bit emotionally attached as I had lost my father at a very young age. After this incident we had to sell the house and the bank was harassing us and my mother went into a huge shock. She was admitted to a hospital and later we approached the police.”

Another victim, a 35-year-old resident of Ajmera Complex in Pimpri, who’s a software techie by profession and working in a reputed multinational company in Hinjewadi, was also duped by another conman whom she met via Facebook recently. She was duped to tune to Rs 1.20 lakh. A case has been registered with Pimpri police station against the person -- Sikenis Prabhakarbhai.

Speaking to mid-day, the victim said, “I had plans to marry and enrolled myself on a matrimonial sites. He claimed he was an Indian who had now settled in America. Later on March 6 while surfing through my Facebook account I received a request from Sikensi Prabhakarbhai who claimed that he was self-employed and working in America. He later told me that he too planned to marry but wanted to first build on our friendship. Initially we used to discuss our work and also various projects that I was handling and he would help me with some coding software. I realised that he is well educated. We later shared our mobile numbers and started talking on WhatsApp frequently and had even exchanged our addresses. Later, I used to help him in his programming work while he assisted in me computer languages. On March 8, last year, -- Women’s Day – he enquired if I had received a surprise gift at that he had sent. He claimed that as I had helped him in his work and he had got incentives, he had wanted to give me a surprise. On being informed that I hadn’t received the gift, he revealed that it was a diamond pendent with a platinum chain.”

She went on, “Sikenis later told me that the courier company had stopped the parcel at New Delhi Airport since it had no bills attached to it. He told me that since the amount was nominal, I could interact with his New Delhi-based friend. He wanted me to transfer Rs 50,000 online into his friend Mohit Taneja’s account. Next day, he called me again and claimed that the Customs officials were demanding Rs 70,000 as bribe to give back and another Rs 70,000 amount I transferred via online banking into his friend Ankur Tomar account. Later he did not connected me and then on March 16, I realised that he had unfriend me on facebook I approached the police. I had saved the amount for my marriage.”

Similar was the experience of 51-year-old accountant in a bank, who was conned by a London-based businessman whom she meant via social networking site. The con man claimed that he wanted to gift her a gold-white necklace on and ended up conning her of Rs 7.60 lakh in a span of 15 days. He later unfriended her on Facebook. The incident came to light, when Meena (name changed), a resident of Chinchwad, lodged a complaint against Prince Anjoli from London.

Meena recalls, “I wanted to have a friend with whom I could share and wanted to relive my life in 20’s. But did not realise that the world in span of two decades had changed and will learn such a hard lesson in life. To kill my time after my work I used to surf on Facebook and that how I received a friend request from a UK-based Prince Anjoli in January 2016. I noticed that he was similar age as me and having a chain of business and claimed that he was never married. I immediately accepted the request and we both would chat daily. We used to chat on Facebook where we discussed about the market in Pune and hobbies. Later, since I was working in a bank and could talk only late in the night and he was working in the day and so couldn't interact at that time wer exchanged our mobile details and used to send message via WhatsApp. Later Prince said he wanted to gift me a gold-white necklace worth Rs 50,000 dollars on Valentine's Day. Later on February 15, he chatted with me and he initially inquired about the necklace. Later, he said he will get back to me. He came backa nd said that the necklace had been sealed by a customs officer in New Delhi and for which had to pay around Rs 4.50 lakh in Indian currency as custom charges, courier charges along with security deposit which would be refunded. A week later, on February 22, Prince said the customs officer was demanding a bribe to dispatch the order and was asking for Rs 3.10 lakh. After paying a total of Rs 7.60 lakh he neglected my calls and later unfriended me on Facebook.”

Inspector Masaji Kale of Pimrpi Police Station, who is investigating the case, said, “During the course of investigation it has been revealed that the account in which complainant deposited money is from Noida and Uttar Pradesh. We have sealed such account but prior to it the amount has been withdrawn. We along with the cyber cell is investigating the case and noticed that such details of women were procured from matrimonial sites and later the request were sent via Facebook.”

Inspector Sunil Pawar, in-charge of Pune City Police’s Cyber Cell, said, “We along with the local police where the cases have been registered is being probing the case and while understand and analysing we noticed that the 14 women from Pune city who are been targetted by con persons are divorcee, late marriage aspirants, lonely women and widows. They are either targetted via Facebook and some of them have used matrimonial bureau sites. While understanding the modus operand it seems that it’s not one person who is working but it seems to be a gang  -- either one or two. We are in the process of tracking down and it seems that the link of this crime is in New Delhi and Noida."

He added, “In most cases it has been seen that the amount which was transferred by such women was later withdrawn from Noida, Tilaknagar, Manipur, Kanpur, New Delhi, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Gudgoan, Muradabad and other such city in North. We believe the gang is operating it in New Delhi.”Inspector (Crime )Ram Sidram Rajmane of Swargate police station said, "Such persons are from Indian itself and they communicate to women as if they are from abroad. The picture which was sent to Heena it noticed that it was a morphed image. We had approached the matrimonal people too but they claimed that people had filed information online from New Delhi based man. Initially it would be Phishing or Nigerian fraud but now they have come up of soft target of woman assuming that women will not lodge complaint considering their identity will be revealed."

Inspector (Crime) Ram Sidram Rajmane of Swargate police station said, "Such persons are Indians, but communicate with women as if they are from abroad. The picture which was sent to Heena was morphed. We had approached the matrimonal people too but they claimed that people had filed information online from New Delhi. Initially, it would be Phishing or Nigerian fraud but now they have come up with the soft target of women, assuming that the women will not lodge a complaint considering their identity will be revealed."

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