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Woman in online fraud knot

A 50-year-old divorcee looking for a partner on a popular matrimonial website was cheated of around Rs 7 lakh by a Nigerian who used a fake profile claiming to be a suitor from America.

Douglas Agboma Smart, 39, and his associate Anwuli Francis Uche, 34, were arrested from Delhi and booked under sections related to cheating and forgery, and under the Information Technology Act.

Douglas had been chatting with the woman online for around a fortnight. “The woman came across the profile of one Franklin James on the marriage portal. According to the profile details, he was a 55-year-old and a resident of the US,” said the joint commissioner (crime), Pallab Kanti Ghosh. “He expressed interest in her and the two struck up a friendship.”

A whirlwind virtual romance followed their first online encounter on March 11. During one of the conversations, the man said he would be visiting the UK soon and could stop by Calcutta on his way.

“On March 28, he called the woman, claiming to be at the Calcutta airport where he said he had been detained as he was not carrying Indian currency. He sought her help and the woman obliged,” said a senior police officer.

The woman followed her online friend’s instructions and deposited money in a bank account, which he claimed was linked to the Reserve Bank of India.

“She transferred Rs 62,000 on the first day. He kept demanding more and she shelled out Rs 6.96 lakh over the next two days in four instalments,” detective chief Ghosh said.

When the demands did not stop, the woman became suspicious and reported the matter to the police. The bank fraud section of the detective department took up the case.

The IP (Internet protocol) address of the laptop used for the chats and the tower location of the iPhone used to make calls to the woman led the cops to Mehrauli near Delhi. Both devices were seized along with sheafs of forged documents.

“They are being brought to Calcutta on transit remand,” Ghosh said.

The police learnt that Douglas and Anwuli, both of who had been living in India for the past three years, allegedly without passports, had duped at least five other women in Vizag, Agra and Mumbai using the marriage portal as a platform to connect. “Douglas interacted with the woman and his associate took care of the bank transactions,” an officer said.

The bank accounts where the money would be deposited have also been traced. “The duo used accounts opened by an Indian with two separate private banks in Kanpur and Delhi,” an officer said.