At least eight people came forward to register complaints against Pramod Mandal who duped aspiring MBBS students and their parents to the tune of Rs 52 lakh after promising them a medical college seat in return.
Mandal and two of his accomplices, Shekhar Singh and Pranav Misra, worked under the banner Sagar Education Solutions Pvt Ltd and rented an office in CBD Belapur.
Incidentally, the office belonged to Arti Saigal, wife of a deputy commissioner of excise and customs. However, police claim Saigal was unaware of their activities and had made an agreement with Mandal through an agent.
After the entrance exam in June this year, Mandal sent text messages to many MBBS aspirants, of whom eight students from different states responded. Mandal asked them to come down to his office and took between Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 12.5 lakh from their parents, on the pretext of securing them a seat.
Main complainant, Harsh Mehta, whose uncle’s son gave the exams in Rajasthan, said, “My cousin got an SMS from Mandal and my uncle asked me to make enquiries. Mandal promised that if the admission did not come through the money would be returned. My uncle came down to Mumbai with a cheque of Rs 4 lakh as Mandal wanted only white money. He gave us a receipt and I kept in touch with him.”
Mehta said, “Mandal had gained our confidence when he told us that the office belonged to the deputy commissioner of excise and customs department. He assured us admission in a Bhopal college. The last I spoke to him was on July 21, after which he disappeared. He had hired six girls as counsellors and an office boy who couldn’t tell us his whereabouts.”
When Mehta’s case came to light, seven others including Ganpati Vishwanath from Chennai, Rakesh Behel from New Delhi, Gajendra Hake from Latur, Nikhil Rokade from Mumbai, Rahul Chikanna from Haryana, Rampal Lathwal from Haryana and S Madialgan from Tamil Nadu registered FIRs against Mandal, who is currently on the run.
Nikhil Rokade, one of the complainants from Mumbai, said, “It was shocking to know that he went missing. Mandal called me to his office with all the documents for admission on July 23. But just to be safe, I went a day before to his office and found out that his mobile had been switched off. His office counsellors said he might be in a flight so his phone was off. But he remained unavailable. So I along with one more parent registered a case against him.”
Mahadev Sarvade, relative of another victim, said, “My cousin’s father-in-law who lives in Latur received an SMS from Mandal and he gave him a cheque of Rs 12.5 lakh for admission in a college in Nasik. He realised he had been defrauded when Mandal’s phone went out of reach.”
Inspector TB Mane of Kamothe police station said, “The total fraud amounts to Rs 52 lakh, embezzled from eight people in different states. Mandal is now missing. His office at Raheja Arcade belonged to Arti Saigal, wife of deputy commissioner of excise and customs. They had sealed the deal with Mandal through a broker. We have booked Mandal and the other two under sections 420 (cheating) and 34 (fraud) of the IPC.”
Mane added, “Mandal had hired seven employees who did not know about his motives. It is believed that he is a resident of Samasthipur in Bihar.”