Millennium Post

Thane: 70 held, 600 booked for cheating US nationals

A total of 70 persons working at three call centres in Mira Road locality here have been arrested and over 600 others booked by Thane police for allegedly posing as US tax officials and extorting money from American nationals by threatening to sue them for tax evasion.

Thane Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh told a press conference here today that the city police raided three call centres, which were running illegally at the premises of Hari Om IT Park, Universal Outsourcing Services and Oswal House in Mira Road last night. In the raids conducted by a 200-strong force, including 40 officials of Crime Branch, a total of 772 people were found to be operating from rented premises, Singh said.

As many as 70 persons were arrested, while another 630 were booked for offence registered under IPC section 384 (extortion), 419 (cheating by impersonation), 420 (cheating) rw 34 (common intention) and under relevant sections of the IT Act and Indian Telegraph Act with Kashimira Police Station, the senior officer said.

Those arrested included managers, call takers, stroke holders and call closures, he said.

Seventy-two people, who were working at these call centres but had no connection with the alleged scam, were let off by the police.

Furnishing more details, Singh said those involved in the racket, which has been active for over last one year, fell in the average age bracket of 20 to 30 years and at least 20-30 per cent of them were women.

Elucidating the modus operandi, he said the callers used to make calls to people in the US and spoke to them in American accent.

“The callers told them that they were calling from Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office. They told them he/she was a tax defaulter and that the money should be paid immediately. They threatened that action will be taken them by police and Tax department. The caller used to first demand around USD 10,000 and later settle for around USD five to three thousand and ask them to make the payment through pre-loaded cards,” Singh said. 

“The accused made the use of VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). The reference number and registration number of the IRS officials of the US were brought in for the purpose. Thus, in this manner they extorted money,” the district police chief said.

The daily turn over of these call centres was to the tune of nearly Rs 1 crore to Rs 1.50 crore. And the annual turn over could be well above Rs 300 crores, he said.

The employees at these call centres were paid around Rs 10,000-30,000 and also got incentives accordingly. The other perks included increments and bonus.

“We worked on the information we received. Even the US agencies were not involved in it. Now, we will share the information with the US authorities concerned,” he said.

Singh said that he had apprised Maharashtra Director General of Police Satish Mathur about the case and due permission was obtained before carrying out the raids.

Police have also received certain information that some of the associates of the call centres operators here were in the US, who were helping them run the racket from here.

Owners of the call centres are currently at large and would be nabbed soon, he said.

He said assistance of IT experts and CAs would be sought for further investigation, adding that a chargesheet will be filed within stipulated 90 days period.

Police also seized literatures, 851 hard discs, different high end servers, DVR, laptops, mobile handsets and other electronic gadgets, valued at around Rs 1 crore.

Among the 70 arrested, the key persons were identified as director Haider Mansuri (24), business manager Shain alias Hamza Balesar (35), manager Kabir Gupta (26), Arjun Vasudev (24), Abdulla Zariwalla (22), manager Johnson Dantosa (24), Govind Thakur (28) and Ankit Gupta (19).
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