Mumbai: Lured by 'US soldier' on Facebook, 72-year-old conned of Rs 2 crore

The victim and the accused started interacting on Facebook, when the latter said that he was looking for a trustworthy partner to invest money in a business

A senior citizen residing in Bandra west was duped of nearly Rs 1.97 crore, in what can be termed as the biggest cyber fraud involving an individual this year. The last such fraud case reported was of Rs 1.18 crore, last year.

Vinod Kumar Ghuwalewala
Vinod Kumar Ghuwalewala

Vinod Kumar Ghuwalewala, (72) was conned by a man he had befriended on Facebook in March this year. The two had been interacting since then. The man on the other side identified himself as Rayon John (name changed) and claimed that he is a US army solider, posted in Afghanistan.

“After befriending Ghuwalewala, John one day told him that he wants to invest in some business in India, but he could not trust anybody for a partnership. He further said that he could invest up to $500,000 (Rs 3.32 crore) if Ghuwalewala becomes his business partner,” said an officer of Bandra police station, adding that they exchanged their numbers and soon were chatting on WhatsApp.

After Ghuwalewala agreed, he was sent a certificate of fund deposit authorised by US Army Corp and the same was sent to the Delhi branch of a nationalised bank. He then got a call from a woman, claiming to be an executive with that bank confirming the receipt of the certificate copy and informed Ghuwalewala that it has also been mailed to him from the bank’s official ID.

“This way John gained Ghuwalewala’s trust, who was fooled by the genuine-looking documents. The bank executive asked him to open an account in order to be eligible to withdraw the money deposited by John,” said another officer.
Ghuwalewala was asked to deposit nearly Rs 1.97 crore (the sum can be bigger, claims police) in ten accounts opened in different banks, all based in Delhi “under different heads like Cost of transfer code, tax amount of international fund code, anti terrorist code and D-Morech code,” added the officer.

After depositing the sum, Ghuwalewala was sent an ATM card by post through which he tried to withdraw the money. It turned out to be non-functional and he sought clarification from the ‘bank’ executive.

He was sent another ATM card, which again did not work. That was when he realised that he had been cheated, as the conmen had cut off all communication by then.

Ghuwalewala, who owned a factory of automobile spare parts in Nashik, then lodged a complaint at the Bandra police station under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and Information Technology Act against John and the woman.

Going by modus operandi, cops suspected that a major Nigerian racket might be behind it. The Cyber Crime Investigation Cell (CCIC) of city’s Economic Offence Wing (EOW) has now taken over the investigation.

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