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Fake call centre scam mastermind arrested in Mumbai

Thane: Sagar Thakkar alias ‘Shaggy’, the alleged mastermind of the Internal Revenue Service call centre scam in which thousands of Americans were defrauded to the tune of USD 300 million, has been arrested by Thane Police.

According to Thane Police officials, Sagar, who was on the run since the unearthing of the scam last year, was placed under arrest late last night after he arrived at the Mumbai airport following his deportation from Dubai.

A team of officers from Thane Police Commissionerate picked up Sagar from the airport, the officials said.

The scam, which operated since 2013 through at least half a dozen call centres in Thane, targeted at least 15,000 US-based tax payers, who were allegedly conned by Indian tele-callers.

The US Justice Department has charged 61 people and entities linked to the scam where call centre agents impersonated IRS, immigration and other federal officials and demanded payments for non-existent debts.

US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson had earlier said that these call centres stole more than USD 300 million from their victims.

The scam came to light last year when police raided call centres at Mira Road in Thane district on the night of October 4-5. Subsequently, police teams raided and shut down five call centres in Ahmedabad which were a part of the racket.

Over 70 people, mostly directors and key persons linked to these call centres, were arrested and 700 employees were detained.

During the interrogation of arrested directors, police got the name of Sagar. However, by that time, he had left the country on October 5 before police could catch him.

According to police, they had issued a LOC (Look Out Circular) against Sagar on October 7, two days after his escape. The kingpin was suspected to have fled to Dubai.

Investigators say Sagar (24) led a lavish lifestyle and was accompanied by around a dozen bouncers. He was a regular at posh late night parties in Mumbai and was also fond of high-end cars.

He began working at the age of 16 with his ‘mentor’ Jagdish Kanani, who had worked in the call centres abroad.

Kanani (33), who was arrested from suburban Borivali last October had trained him, they said.

Also, Thane police had seized an Audi car belonging to Sagar, valued at Rs 2.5 crore, from Ahmedabad in October last year. It was allegedly purchased from a leading cricketer in May.

—PTI