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Cybercrime nexus busted

Image Source: indianexpress

In the latest from Pune Crime Files, a timely alert from a bank aided authorities in uncovering a sophisticated three-tiered cyber fraud operation with ties to Dubai.

A police investigation was triggered by transactions totaling Rs 20 crore across 50 bank accounts within a span of just two months, leading to the arrest of 13 suspects. A timely tip-off from officials at a private sector bank proved crucial, as the Pimpri Chinchwad police’s cybercrime cell uncovered an intricate cyber fraud operation.

The suspects, all in their 20s, were found operating across three layers under the direction of international criminals based in Dubai. These individuals acted as cyber foot soldiers, managing a network of 50 bank accounts used as conduits for funds siphoned from unsuspecting victims of online frauds.

The investigation began when the Pimpri Chinchwad police’s cybercrime cell was probing an online task fraud case. Input from the manager of a private sector bank alerted the team to suspicious activity in dozens of accounts opened within the last two months. These accounts, registered under the names of laborers and farmers, exhibited abnormal transactions amounting to crores of rupees. Further investigation revealed that these accounts were being used to receive funds diverted from cybercrime victims.

In the ensuing probe, the investigation team identified a network of 50 bank accounts associated with at least 16 cybercrimes registered in Maharashtra.

The operation of the racket involved three tiers, with the higher echelons operating from abroad, particularly in Dubai. The first layer comprised individuals in whose names the accounts were opened, receiving a fixed monthly amount or a small percentage of transactions. The second layer facilitated the opening and maintenance of these accounts, while the third layer connected the lower tiers to the masterminds in Dubai.

Investigations suggest that the laundered money was ultimately used to purchase cryptocurrency, deposited into the digital wallets of operators based in Dubai. Six individuals from the first layer, five from the second, and two, including a 23-year-old engineer, from the third layer have been apprehended, with plans for further arrests.

The investigation team, led by Senior Inspector Vaibhav Shingare and supported by Assistant Inspector Praveen Swami and Sub Inspectors Sagar Poman, Nitin Gaikwad, and Ravindra Panhale, alongside constabulary staff, meticulously pursued the case.

Online task frauds, a prevalent scam since January 2023 in Pune, involve enticing victims with promises of payment for simple tasks like liking videos or providing online reviews. Victims are initially paid small amounts to gain their trust before being lured into paying fees for higher returns. Ultimately, victims realize they’ve been duped when promised returns fail to materialize, resulting in substantial financial losses.

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