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82-year-old hotelier duped of 1.7 crore by Facebook friend

Colaba police registered a first information report (FIR) on the basis of a complaint lodged by an 82-year-old Malabar Hill resident who has been cheated to the tune of 1
By Vijay Kumar Yadav, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON MAY 30, 2021 12:47 AM IST

Colaba police registered a first information report (FIR) on the basis of a complaint lodged by an 82-year-old Malabar Hill resident who has been cheated to the tune of 1.7 crore by a London-based friend he met on social media platform Facebook.

The complainant was befriended by a woman on the social media platform who posed as a senior executive of a UK-based pharmaceutical company. She induced the complainant into investing money in supplying raw material for an alleged drug for cancer treatment and cheated him.

According to police sources, the complainant received a friend request from one Samantha Mathew, who introduced herself as purchase manager in pharmaceutical company at London, in February this year. After chatting on the platform for a while, the two shared their mobile numbers.

“Mathew told the complainant that her company procured some herbal raw material for producing a cancer medicine from a firm in Nagaland, India. This raw material, she claimed, was extracted from a tree in Nagaland and added that she has been procuring the raw material for the company and was getting good commission for it. She then allegedly told him that her employer was transferring her to some other department, and offered the complainant her company’s agency for procuring the raw material and earn 60% commission,” said a police officer.

The complainant decided to invest money in the business of supplying the raw material and entered a deed of agreement with Mathew’s company on May 3. As per the agreement, which was sent to the complainant through email, he was supposed to buy 5,000 packets of the raw material from Nagaland-based Varma Enterprises and send it to the company in the UK for a period of five years.

The firm also stated that they would check samples first and then make 50% advance payment for a shipment. For the one packet of raw material, the company agreed to pay around 2 lakh.

The complainant bought five packets from the Nagaland firm for 75,000 each to send as samples. But the UK-based company told him that they would need at least 500 packets as sample.

However, after the complainant sent around 1.7 crore to buy 500 packets to the said Nagaland-based firm, he did not get the delivery. Upon checking with the firm repeatedly, the firm told him that they would send an executive via air to deliver the samples. Upon reaching the airport on the given date, the complainant found out that no such person was in the flight.

Following this, he approached Colaba police.

“We have registered a case under sections 420 (cheating) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code and section 66 (Computer related offences) of the Information Technology Act. We are in process of obtaining details of the transactions, online Facebook accounts and beneficiary bank accounts. We suspect that the accused used fake names, fake company details and website and emails IDs,” said a police officer.

Another police officer said the typical modus operandi indicates involvement of a Nigerian gang in the fraud. “Nigerian cyber fraudsters have been using the false stories of cancer-curing herbal medicine since many years and targetting vulnerable senior citizens on Facebook,” the officer said.

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