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Thane fake call centre: Mastermind got childhood friends to form network

mumbai Updated: Oct 13, 2016 01:22 IST
Debasish Panigrahi
Debasish Panigrahi
Hindustan Times
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Delta IT Park in Mira Road, which house the call centres. (Pramod Thakur/HT)

The Ahmedabad-based mastermind of the Thane tele scam, Sagar Thakkar, 23, roped in several of his childhood friends to form a network of trustworthy floor managers, who then ran the multi-million dollar con across cities, said the police. Sagar and his family are currently absconding.

One such operative — now in custody of the Thane crime branch— shed light on the closely knit multi-layered operation, in which secrets were closely guarded.

“The business ran like the pyramid marketing schemes, in which everyone contributes to the overall success. That is probably why they kept business secrets so well, that no one found out about the scheme for so long,” said a key investigator of the case.

*Virat Master, 25, the arrested operative is a std 10 drop-out from a school in Nalasopara, where Sagar studied till std 6, before his family migrated to Ahmedabad. After dropping out, Virat did odd jobs before joining a car wash in Vasai.

The officer said Virat received a call a couple of years ago. The caller identified himself as Sagar, his childhood friend, and asked him about his monthly income and family. “Virat was earning no more than Rs4,000-5,000 a month. So when Sagar promised him decent wages, Virat accepted and went to Ahmedabad at his request,” he said.

A chauffer-driven Mercedes picked up Virat at the Ahmedabad railway station and took him to a well-known five star hotel where Sagar was waiting. “The two had lunch together and then went to one of the call centres run by Sagar,” the officer said.

Impressed by Sagar’s wealth and lifestyle, Virat immediately agreed to work at the call centre, in which six or seven of his schoolmates worked. They had all been invited and given work by Sagar in the same way as Virat.

“Sagar most likely got their contact details and whereabouts from social networking sites,” the officer said. Virat was initially paid Rs15,000, which was later increased to Rs30,000 a month.

Virat allegedly told the police that he worked at the call centre for two to three months before quitting and returning to Mumbai as he was homesick. “However, after running out of money, Virat contacted Sagar again. Sagar made him a floor manager at one of the call centres at Mira Road. There he found four-five of his classmates who were trained at Ahmedabad. They were working as floor managers in other call centres at the Delta building,” the officer said.

After interrogating Virat, the police learnt that Sagar used his friends to recruit employees from their respective friend circles. “Sagar got his friends in and around Vasai-Mira Road to work for his call centre. Those he recruited roped in their friends, and so on. It ran like a multi-level marketing scheme.The employees knew each other and kept the operation a secret,” the official added.

The police learnt that Sagar — who used to live in a one-room flat at Nyandshwar Apartments in Varsrapur, Ahmedabad — amassed a fortune in a short time through the network.

*Names of the accused have been changed as the case is under investigation

Mastermind’s sister managed finances

The police have learnt that Sagar’s elder sister Reema, 27, helped him manage the call centres’ finances. Reema, who lives with her family in Borivli (West), maintained the salary register of the call centres and would visit them regularly. “She and Sagar would distribute the employees’ salaries,” sources said. Reema went underground as soon as the scam was unearthed last week, they added.