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Aspiring businesswoman falls prey to well-oiled scam

Tuesday, February 13, 2018
By Suresh Golani

Online fraudsters dupe woman under garb of huge profits through herbal oil exports

In a well oiled conspiracy, a 40-year-old aspiring businesswoman from Bhayandar lost Rs. 82.50 lakhs after falling prey to an online scam involving cyber criminals promising double the profit on the export of a rare Indian herbal product to a top pharmaceutical company in the United Kingdom (UK).

The accused who had identified themselves as Betty Jones and Kusum Choudhary are still at large. In her complaint to the police, the victim, a resident of the posh Indralok area in Bhayandar (E) came in contact with Betty Jones on a social media platform while she was employed as a secretary at a Sharjah-based multinational company (MNC) in 2017. They soon became friends and regularly chatted with each other until Jones made a very lucrative offer. Jones lured her to venture into a profitable business involving export of a rare oil which was manufactured in a company at Uttarakhand. The oil, according to Jones, was in huge demand overseas. The victim was assured that the oil she would buy at $250 could be exported to the UK firm for $600 per litre, translating into a profit of more than 125 per cent.

Aspiring to start her own business from the money which she had saved while working in Sharjah for 11 years, the woman fell for the trap and as per Jones' instructions, placed an order for two litres by transferring Rs. 3.30 lakhs from her bank account after a telephonic conversation with a woman who identified herself as Kusum Choudhary. The woman also claimed to have the sole selling rights of the oil product. To win her confidence, Choudhary delivered the oil to the victim’s flat in Bhayandar. The victim flew back home and as instructed, took the oil to a specified location in Powai where an unidentified man removed some oil with the help of a syringe claiming to send the samples to the laboratory to ascertain its authenticity. A few days later, the victim was informed that the oil samples had passed the test and soon the UK based company would place an order. Subsequently, Jones slowly went on increasing the needed quantity and convinced the victim to buy 50 litres of the oil for which she deposited Rs. 82.50 lakh in various bank accounts between November and December 2017.

Although she received the oil after payments, both Jones and Choudhary stopped answering her calls. Realising she was duped, she immediately filed a complaint, a FIR under Sections 419 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), at the Navghar police station against Betty Jones and Kusum Choudhary, who are still at large. Sensing the gravity of the case, Superintendent of Police Dr. Mahesh Patil has directed the Local Crime Branch (LCB) unit to investigate the case in association with the Cyber Cell.

Double whammy
A day after she was cheated of her hard-earned money, the victim was shocked to learn that her account had been frozen by the bank. Upon enquiring, she was told by bank officials there that her account had been frozen by the Cyber Cell, Pune, due to monetary transactions with accounts that were under the scanner for fraudulent activities. The woman immediately met Cyber Cell officials (who were investigating a similar case of fraud in their jurisdiction) and told them of her ordeal. Realising that she was one of the victims, the cops informed the bank to unfreeze the account.

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