Mumbai: Plans for second chance at marital bliss cost designer Rs 42 lakh

Cyber Crime Cell officials have arrested a man and woman from Bengaluru; cops say the duo is part of a gang that duped the designer with a Canadian marriage proposal

After working on the case for nine months since they received a complaint on October 14, 2014, sleuths of the Cyber Crime Cell successfully arrested a man and a woman from Bengaluru on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, for their alleged involvement in duping a city-based fashion designer to the tune of over Rs 42 lakh.

The accused have been identified as Paul Vukunveke alias Williams (32) and K Supriya Hardigs alias Mona (30). Manisha Shenoy (44), who owns a boutique in Kandivli, came across the profile of one Robert Antonio on a matrimonial website. Shenoy had created an account on the website in August 2014, two years after divorcing her husband.


Representational pic

The two grew close and during one of their chats, the man who was claiming to be Antonio told her that he was a resident of Canada and was employed as a civil engineer with a Canadian shipping firm.

The con begins
In September, Antonio told Shenoy that his mother was suffering from cancer and kidney failure, for which she was undergoing treatment in Berlin. Antonio told her that since he was at sea, he was unable to transfer funds into his mother’s account for further treatment.

He requested Shenoy to do the needful and she transferred Rs 8.30 lakh into the bank account provided by him. A few days later, Antonio called Shenoy and informed her that his ship had docked in Malaysia and he would soon be taking a flight to India to meet her and her family.

But on the day of his departure, Shenoy told the police that she received a call from a man claiming to be a Malaysian Customs official named Mohammad Ali Hashim. The man told her that Antonio had been detained at the airport for travelling with a large amount of foreign currency.

Later, Shenoy received calls from Antonio and Hashim on two different occasions, asking her to deposit Rs 91,200 and Rs 4,72,200 as tax on the amount Antonio was carrying.

A few days later, she once again received a call from Hashim, asking her to pay Rs 12,04,100 for seeking an ‘Anti-terrorism Certificate’ for Antonio. He called Shenoy again later and asked her to deposit Rs 2.81 lakh for appointing a lawyer for Antonio.

In the last week of September, Hashim called Shenoy and asked her to deposit Rs 9.32 lakh for seeking Customs clearances for Antonio and the cash he was carrying. In the first week of October, Hashim asked her to deposit Rs 2.49 lakh for the special accommodation services used by Antonio at the airport.

He called her again the same week and asked for Rs 1.5 lakh to Antonio’s medical bills saying had been admitted at a local hospital. Shenoy hadn’t suspected foul play so far and and had kept paying.

Epiphany
It was after paying for the medical bills that Shenoy realised that she may have been duped. She approached the Cyber Crime Cell and lodged a complaint on October 14, 2014.

Cop speak
Commenting on the case, Senior Inspector S R Ghosalkar from Cyber Crime Cell said the accused who have been arrested used various bank accounts to con the fashion designer. He said the breakthrough came after they managed to trace one of the holders of the accounts into which Shenoy had transferred money to Andhra Pradesh.

Ghosalkar said interrogation the bank account holder led them to Williams and Mona. He said the duo had fooled him into letting them use the bank account. “From initial investigations, it seems the two arrested accused were part of a gang and were involved in handling the money. The identities of Antonio and Hashim are yet to be ascertained and we are probing that angle,” said Ghosalkar.

An official said, “The accused used various bank accounts. The two were booked under sections 420 (cheating) and 34 (common intention) of the IPC and relevant sections of the IT Act. They have been brought to Mumbai.”

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