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Mumbai call centre scam mastermind arrested

According to the US DoJ indictment, call centre operators threatened potential victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay taxes or penalties. (Representative image) (Image source: Wikimedia Commons) Photograph: (Others)

Reuters Mumbai, Maharashtra, India Apr 08, 2017, 10.10 AM (IST)

Mumbai police said on Saturday they have arrested the alleged mastermind behind a call centre scam run out of a Mumbai suburb that targeted thousands of Americans and netted more than $300 million.

Sagar Thakkar, also known as Shaggy, was arrested at the Mumbai international airport in the early hours of Saturday after he flew in from Dubai, Mukund Hatote, a police officer on the case, told Reuters.

In October, the US Justice Department charged more than 60 people in India and the United States with participating in the huge scam where call centre agents impersonated Internal Revenue Service, immigration or other federal officials and demanded payments for nonexistent debts.

The department said at least 15,000 people had been targeted by the telefraud that was run out of India.

The scam was blown open in early October, when police raided a host of call centres in the Mumbai suburb of Thane and detained over 700 people allegedly involved in defrauding Americans. Other call centres involved in the scam that operated from Ahmedabad were also raided and shut down by authorities.

Thakkar was listed as a call centre operator and payment processor in the US Department of Justice indictment that charged the defendants with conspiracy to commit identity theft, false personation of an officer of the United States, wire fraud and money laundering.

According to the US DoJ indictment, call centre operators threatened potential victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay taxes or penalties.

Payments by victims were laundered by a US network of co-conspirators using prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, often using stolen or fake identities, the indictment said.

US and Indian authorities have been working together on the investigation. The US had said it would be seeking the extradition of the alleged scamsters based in India.

Police have previously said that Thakkar led a lavish lifestyle, frequenting five-star hotels and driving around in expensive cars. They believed that Thakkar had fled overseas after the scam was uncovered.

Reuters has been unable to contact Thakkar for comment.

(Reuters)

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