BENGALURU: An Udupi-based businessman has fallen prey to a fraud investor, a ‘UK national’, and ended up being cheated of Rs 81.44 lakh. The businessman -- an engineer by profession -- came across a ‘British’ lady named ‘Sophia Johnson’ on Facebook, who allegedly lured him into ‘taking care of her business’ in India. She asked him to pay up money to get her ‘business representative’ released from customs officials, and he fell for it, losing the money in 11 instalments.Neville D’Mello (name changed on request), who runs his own firm, has filed a complaint with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in this regard. CID officials are yet to start investigating the case.
D’Mello came across Sophia on Facebook in August 2017 when she introduced herself as an ‘entrepreneur in UK’. She sent a friend request and D’Mello accepted it in the first week of August. Both continued to chat about their personal and professional lives. After a few days, both shared their mobile phone numbers and continued to talk on WhatsApp.By the third week, Sophia said she had made good profit from her business in the UK and wanted to invest in real estate in India. She said she wanted somebody to take care of her business in India. D’Mello, a civil engineer, jumped at the opportunity, dreaming of making big money.
Sophia said she would send 100 million pounds with her representative, Patrick, who would make the money available to D’Mello to start the real estate business in India. While D’Mello awaited the money, Patrick called him over the phone and said he was caught by the customs officials and wanted to pay for various reasons. When he called Sophia, she said she was in the USA on a trip. She told him to pay up by trusting and also took an oath in the name of God.
Believing her, D’Mello in 11 transactions transferred money to the tune of Rs 81.44 lakh to 10 State Bank of India (SBI) accounts and one UTI Bank account. These bank accounts are located in Delhi, Gujarat and other parts of north India.After some days, when D’Mello started worrying about making such large payments, he called Sophia and told her about the issue. She told him that she was still in the USA and assured to come to India to address the issue.
A few days later, he received a call from Sophia saying she was arrested by the police in a money laundering case and demanded Rs 25 lakh for her release.It was only then that D’Mello -- who by now had taken loans from various people amounting to Rs 50 lakh and was in no state to arrange more money -- grew suspicious. Hoping to get some assurance, he contacted a few of his friends in Delhi. They told him that he might have fallen prey to cyber criminals.