MADURAI: Conmen are as virulent as the virus itself during the pandemic — this is a lesson a doctor from Vadipatti learnt after falling prey to frauds not once but twice within a couple of months. Scam operators pretending to be representatives of overseas mask manufacturers, cheated the owner of a private hospital of Rs 2.1 crore over two months starting May.
The incident came to light when the 44-year-old doctor approached the District Crime Branch with a complaint, sources said. A Hyderbad-based middleman going by the name, Uday Shankar Parupalli, approached the doctor on May 22 and offered him help to purchase N95 mask in bulk from a Kyrgyzstan- based company at reduced price.
Lured by the offer, the doctor placed an order for 2 lakh masks with the company online. Later, a man named Surya Narayanan, who claimed to be the commercial director of the company, contacted the doctor and confirmed the order. As instructed, the doctor paid Rs 90 lakh, a part of the total amount, in several transactions until July 3.
Madurai doctor loses Rs 2 crore to ‘mask’ men
In June, the doctor placed a second order online for 5 lakh N95 masks with a private company in The Netherlands. Shortly after placing the order, a man named Patrick Van Dick, who claimed to be from the sales section of the company, contacted him to discuss the sale and the transaction. A few days later, another man named Peter Booths, who introduced himself as the manager of the company, contacted him and confirmed the order. The duo asked the doctor to pay 20 per cent of the amount as advance, and he paid $1,60,000 in several transactions between June 9 and June 16. The men sent him an airway bill and demanded a further payment of 30 per cent of the total amount; they said the remaining 50 per cent could be paid after the order reached the Chennai Airport.
In July, the doctor received a document sent by Uday Shankar and Surya Narayanan. A scrutiny proved that the document was fake. Alarmed, the doctor contacted the duo and demanded his money, but to no avail. Around the same time, the doctor contacted ‘The Netherlands’ company, to which he had by then paid more than Rs 1 crore, and tried to cancel the order; both Dick and Booths stopped responding to his calls.
They neither supplied the masks nor returned the advance amount. Based on the complaint lodged by the doctor, the DCB registered two separate cases against seven persons under Sections 120 (B), 406, 420 and 34 of IPC. Police sources said that since foreign nationals are involved in the crime, the embassies concerned should be contacted for further investigation. It may be noted that two businessmen in Mumbai and a doctor in Hyderabad had lost their money in similar frauds while trying to purchase N95 masks and PPE kits online.