Employees of nine Thane call centres who were questioned by the police on Thursday revealed details of the months-long racket in which they duped an estimated 6,500 US citizens of about Rs 500 crore through coercion and blackmail. They said they were each given a script upon joining the firms. According to the police, the first line of it read: “Hello, I am an officer calling from the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) of which you are a tax defaulter.”
A police officer from Thane commissionerate said, “Whenever a new employee joined the call centres, the HR department would hand over a script in which the caller introduced himself as an IRS officer. All the employees knew about the scam. Once the caller got a 16-digit (prepaid card) number from a customer, he would pass it on to his senior in Mumbai. From there it would be sent to Ahmedabad and then to the US, where their accomplices would withdraw money from the account.”
Nitin Thackeray, a police inspector at the Thane crime branch, said, “The arrested accused were produced in court and remanded in custody till Monday.”
Thackeray said, “The eight main suspects used to work as floor managers and team managers. They never met the main boss in Mumbai as he worked over the phone and rarely went to office.”
Parag Manere, deputy commissioner of police, Thane, said, “Among the 700 employees under investigation, two are minors, aged 16 and 17. They were also produced in court but sent to a remand home. The employees who have been served notices will be called in one by one to have their statements recorded.”
Meanwhile, the Thane police have been inundated with calls and messages from US citizens who were duped. Tejaswi Vakil from Orange County, California, telephoned Thane police commissioner Paramveer Singh on Thursday morning and told him that his father, who is unwell, lost $2,050 in the scam earlier this year. “Even his wife was harassed with a series of aggressive calls,” Singh said.
A detective firm from New Jersey who had been hired by several victims of the scam also contacted Singh. “The control room has also been receiving calls regularly from anxious US citizens, including many NRIs, who lost money to the fraudsters,” Singh said.
He added that the police will set up an email for other victims to send their complaints to. “We will register cases against each of these complaints,” Singh added.
Meanwhile, a senior Thane crime branch official said that officials from the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), who are likely to meet senior Thane police officials on Saturday in connection with a recent drugs bust, are likely also to be briefed about the call centre case. “They in turn will brief the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about the preliminary findings,” a source said, adding that an FBI team is likely to call on the Thane police next week. Singh however, remained mum on the FBI team’s visit.
QUESTIONED Police say employees of the nine Thane firms were given scripts that began with, “Hello, I am an IRS officer’