Fake call centres busted in Shillong

Meghalaya police have arrested nine persons, including one of the masterminds, in the IRS call centre scam since last night.

By Rining Lyngdoh in Shilong
  • Published 30.08.17
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Shillong, Aug. 29: Meghalaya police have arrested nine persons, including one of the masterminds, in the IRS call centre scam since last night.

The over $300 million (Rs 1,900 crore) scam allegedly involves duping thousands of American citizens through voice over Internet protocol. The call centres would gather details of the persons from websites, impersonate as agents of Internal Revenue Service (IRS), United States, and threaten them to make payments for default of tax payments or face jail sentence. A purchaser would hand over a 16-digit number to the caller who then sent the number to a vendor in the US to get the amount reimbursed. The same is then remitted to India by hawala channels.

"Preliminary interrogation suggests that a group of people working with these call centres have been making calls to people in the US, posing as officials of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), United States. The callers would tell the US citizens that they had not paid their taxes and ask them to deposit money or buy some gift coupons," East Khasi Hills superintendent of police Davis N.R. Marak said.

He said nine people have been arrested so far and a few are on the run. Six were arrested last night while three were arrested this evening.

In a communiqué issued this evening, superintendent of police (city) Vivek Syiem said the police conducted raids on the building housing SS Net Com office, located near the building which houses RBI office, both in Cleve Colony here, following a tip-off last evening that owners of IFA Enterprise had come in their Chevrolet Cruze (AS01-AZ-0101) in an apartment at Cleve Colony.

"The fraud call centre (M/s IFA Enterprise) had rented three floors of the building of S.S. Net Com and was run by Amit Bhowmick and Sunny Mukherjee alias Faisal. The two used to come at intervals to pay salaries. Another call centre (M/s BPO Zurich) was operating from the building housing RBI office. It was also gathered that due to raids in several parts of the country, the scamsters were trying to wind up and set shop somewhere else," Syiem stated.

Simultaneous raids were conducted at the two fake call centre offices last night. Four persons were arrested from IFA Enterprise premises, Amit Bhowmick, 24, of Tura, Vivek Thapa of Cleve Colony, Naina Gurung, 22, of Lower Nongrim Hills and Pynshan Mawthoh of Madanrting, one of its managers, while two persons, Rijo Christian Joseph, 26, from Ahmedabad in Gujarat and Sweety Sutnga, 22, of Lower Nongrim Hills were arrested from BPO Zurich office.

He said a huge number of incriminating documents, including IRS scripts, 77 hard disks removed from central processing units (CPUs), and Rs 1 lakh cash were seized from the IFA Enterprise office. From the BPO Zurich office, electronic gadgets used in the scam, Rs 1 lakh cash and several incriminating documents were seized.

Today, two employees of SS Net Com, Christopher Kurbah, 23, of Lawsohtun and manager Kiren Damai, 39, of Digboi, Dibrugarh, were arrested in connection with the IFA Enterprise call centre.

"In the process, it was also gathered that another call centre, M/s Dasanbha Enterprise, owned by Nicky War of Jaïaw and others were planning to close shop," Syiem said. Nicky was summoned and interrogated. He revealed that the call centre would call American citizens and ask the customers if they suffered from any health problem and if they had an advocate. When the person said no, the caller would claim to be from a reputed American firm which would help them get "potential compensation" for a fee ranging from $650. Nicky was arrested and 63 computers, a server, seals and 43 hard disks seized from Dasanbha.

Police have registered two cases with Laitumkhrah police station. Five of the arrested were forwarded to the court of the chief judicial magistrate, which remanded them in police custody for six days. Nicky will be produced in court tomorrow. "Investigation is on to reach a logical conclusion of the case and to nab the rest of the culprits," Syiem said.