SSP Gurjot Singh Kaler giving details about the arrest of the three men, all taxi drivers, in Mohali on Sunday. (Keshav Singh/HT)
SSP Gurjot Singh Kaler giving details about the arrest of the three men, all taxi drivers, in Mohali on Sunday. (Keshav Singh/HT)

Gang that duped patients in search of Covid drugs busted in Mohali

Three-member gang took money from customers for remdesivir and amphonex injections, and then blocked their mobile numbers, say police
By Shailee Dogra, Mohali
PUBLISHED ON JUN 07, 2021 12:42 AM IST

The cyber cell of Mohali police has busted a three-member gang that duped patients and their kin on the pretext of providing them remdesivir and amphonex injections, used in the treatment of Covid-19 and mucormycosis, respectively.

The accused, Amit Kumar of Zirakpur, and Mandeep Singh and Kulwinder Kumar, both from Haryana’s Kurukshetra, used to lure people through fake advertisements on social media, said police.

“All three are taxi drivers who came together to form a gang and cheat people looking for emergency drugs. Noticing the increased demand for medicines, they found an opportunity to make easy money and learnt the modus operandi from the internet,” said Gurjot Singh Kaler, senior superintendent of police (cyber), while addressing the media on Sunday.

An alert about the fraud from Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand Police led to the arrests. Amit was the first to be arrested from Zirakpur, while Kulwinder was arrested from Kaithal, Haryana.

14 lakh in cash and five debit cards of different banks have been recovered from the accused,” the SSP said.

Cash totalling 3 lakh and four debit cards were found in Mandeep’s possession, 6.5 lakh and one debit card was recovered from Kulwinder. Another 3.5 lakh was found in his bank account, which has been frozen, while 1 lakh was found in Amit’s account.

“Most of the victims were duped through online transactions. We will try to reach them by tracing their bank accounts so that the money can be returned,” Kaler said.

Posted advts on social media to lure people

The SSP said the accused circulated fake advertisements on social media, mainly on groups about selling injections at lower rates, even though they were not in contact with any medicine supplier to procure the injections or any other drug.

“They used different mobile numbers on the advertisements and even formed a WhatApp group to widen their reach. The gang had been active for past couple of months when the Covid cases were peaking and demand for these drugs was high,” said Kaler.

“After taking orders from relatives and patients, they would ask them to deposit the money in their bank accounts and would stop taking calls by blocking the mobile numbers,” he added.

They mostly targeted people staying in remote areas of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.

Mastermind used English skills to convince victims

According to investigators, Kulwinder is the mastermind of the gang. Among the trio, Kulwinder is the most fluent in English and would talk to the victims over the phone. Amit was tasked with opening new bank accounts to receive the unwary victims’ money and Mandeep used to withdraw the cash.

Used PoS machines to withdraw money

To avoid being caught, they would visit various petrol pumps and use the point of sale (PoS) machines to swipe their debit cards and take cash in return. They were operating multiple bank accounts with different names in various branches of HDFC and IndusInd banks to manage the racket, the SSP said.

The accused have been booked under Sections 419 (cheating by personation), 420 (cheating) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 5 of the Disaster Management Act at the Zirakpur police station. They were produced before a court on Sunday and sent to four-day police remand.

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