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Thane call centre scam: Cops to question mastermind’s ‘mentor’

mumbai Updated: Oct 16, 2016 23:01 IST
Debasish Panigrahi
Call centre scam

Sagar Thakkar aka Shaggy who masterminded the scam. (HT Photo)

Sagar Thakkar, alias Shaggy, the alleged mastermind of the Thane fake call centre racket, and four of his key associates who shaped the multi-crore scam over the past two years, were products of a scam factory in Bhavnagar (Gujarat) that had produced several of their ilk. Their mentor, a notorious con man from that city, now lives in south Mumbai and is now known as an investor dabbling in several ventures, from real estate, Bollywood to the stock market.

A senior officer from the Thane crime branch, which is investigating the scam, told HT that the police were not ruling out the possibilities of the businessman’s involvement in the scam. “We have identified him. He will soon be questioned,” said the officer.

In 2012, Shaggy and four of his associates, Akhil Singh, Ali, Gimmy and Tapesh worked for the businessman at the latter’s Bhavnagar office. “The office was actually a front for a nation-wide con syndicate,” said the officer.

Explaining the operation of the syndicate, the officer said the businessman was an expert in accessing personal data, which were either hacked from servers or sold by unscrupulous employees at various establishments.

“They would obtain data about people who regularly purchased medicine from drug stores across the country. After getting hold of their e-mail addresses, they would send mails offering 20-30 per cent discount on the same drug through online and home delivery,” the officer said. Like in the present scam, 5-10 per cent of the recipients (of the e-mail) fell in their trap. “In fact, it was a flourishing business as they trapped hundreds of gullible people every day for one-and-a-half years, before the police got wind of it by mid-2013.” However, the businessman closed the office and went underground before the police could lay hand on him.

Though Shaggy and his friends fled from Bhavnagar, they had, by then, learnt the tricks of data theft and put it to use by setting up a fake call centre in Ahmedabad (and later in Mira Road). “By now they were confident enough to spread their business to the lucrative shores of the US, the UK or Australia. Not only were the returns high, but the chances of being caught were far less when compared to the earlier business,” the official added.

The police suspect that the businessman, who settled down in Mumbai after a few run-ins with law, had helped Shaggy set up his ventures. “He is privy to many of Shaggy’s business secrets,” the officer added.