The police busted overnight what could possibly be the biggest impersonation call scams in India and detained over 500 people from nine call centres in Mira Road for cheating thousands, primarily foreign nationals, through the fraud. All pics/mid-day photographers
The international racket being run from a Mira Road call centre placed calls to US citizens posing as IRS (Internal Revenue Service) officials, said several of those arrested are college dropouts or unemployed youths, who stayed in the job for the handsome salary. A trainee, a dialer, a trainee caller, an HR official, a floor manager, and an âexecutorâ together were involved in the whole con.
Primary investigations revealed that the database had personal details of thousands of foreign and Indian nationals like their contact numbers, names, addresses and citizenships. Such details were allegedly used to take victims into confidence. Once they convinced their victims of the urgency of the calls â say for defaulting on tax or insurance payments â the fraudsters threatened them with legal action, and coaxed or extorted them into revealing their bank account details. As soon as the details were out, the bank accounts were wiped clean.
Crime Branch sleuths posed as job aspirants and surveyed the premises, while another set mingled with the staff at a paan stall to gain inside info. "Our officer, whoâs in his early 30s, had a look inside the premises, the working atmosphere, the floors, etc. He also made a note of the number of people working there and where they would escape from in case of a raid. Accordingly, we prepared the team," informed an officer. Before the raid, plain-clothed officers also kept a watch on the premises from a distance. "We targeted the food and cigarette stalls outside the call centre during break time. For more than 15 days, we stood there, loudly talking amongst ourselves about unemployment and the desperate search for a job. Thatâs how we struck up conversations with the employees, on the pretext of inquiring about vacancies,â added the officer, "We warmed up to them and got information and confirmation on the illegality going on inside."
Seven of the call centres operated out of a seven-storey building. The building, Delta, is on Penkar Pada Road in the area, and other call centres operated out of Naya Nagar, around 2 km away.
Sagar started living with his sister Reema and was idling away time. The scam started after he came in contact with the mastermind based in the US, who provided him with all the crucial data. Police believe that even his sister Reema Thakkar was involved in the scam as the cash sent from Ahmedabad to Mumbai through angadia was in her name. She also used to look after the call centre's accounts.
The Thane police seized the Audi R8 worth around Rs 3 crore that the kingpin in the bogus call centre scam in Mira Road had purchased from captain of the Indian team in Test cricket, Virat Kohli, for Rs 50 lakh.
A lavish lifestyle and everything posh of the kingpin of the multi-crore extortion racket being run from call centres in Mumbai and Ahmedabad was not restricted to him â Sagar Thakkar alias Shaggy had gifted a Rs 2.5 crore Audi R8 to his 21-year-old girlfriend on her birthday.
California resident and chartered accountant Tejas Vakil (44) has approached the Thane police, saying he is among those who were cheated by the Mira Road call centre. He had filed a complaint against the conmen with the Tustin police station in California three months ago. The Vakils have been based in the US since 2000. Speaking to mid-day, Tejas said that after reading the mid-day report, he realised that it was same scam he had been cheated in for.
Thane Crime Branch arrested the ex-boss of Sagar Thakkar alias Shaggy, the kingpin of the massive fraud. According to a report Jagdish Kanani (35), who was nabbed from Borivli, had launched a bogus call centre in Ahmedabad in 2010. According to cops, it was Kanani trained Thakkar as far as technology and approaching Americans is concerned.
Sagar was earlier involved in a medical fraud, extorting money from Indians who used to spend high amounts monthly on medicines. Sources from the investigation agencies said the medical racket was being run from Bhavnagar in Gujarat in 2012, but it was stopped as soon as it popped up on the police radar.
As part of evidence collected, the police have listed more than 20 Americans, who were cheated, as witnesses. âAfter we got details about the victims from the hard disks seized as part of the raids, we sent a bulk message, to all of them, asking them to get in touch with us on the Thane police website. Several did, telling how and of how much they were cheated.
A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official Sohel Daud, assistant legal attache, US Embassy, and attached with the FBI, had a meeting with Parambir Singh, Commissioner of Police, Thane, to get an insight into the investigation so far and to find out the nitty-gritty details about how the fraud took place.
Six months after fleeing the country following a massive raid on his fraud call centre set-up at Mira Road, Sagar Thakkar alias Shaggy, the kingpin in the multi-crore scam, was finally arrested at the Mumbai airport in April 2017.
The latest development is a day after Sagar Thakkar alias Shaggy, the kingpin of an international call centre scam was arrested by police, sources claim that Sagar's parents sold off their bungalow in Ahmedabad for around Rs 2.50 crore and have been absconding since then.