Odisha Crime Branch busts Crypto/ Stock/ IPO investment frauds of Rs 30 Crore, arrests 15 Cyber Criminals

Bhubaneswar: The Cyber Crime Unit of CID, Crime Branch, Odisha, has arrested 15 accused persons involved in a series of cyber-crime cases of Crypto/ Stock/ IPO investment fraud. This organized gang of cyber criminals was operating in the guise of investment schemes promising high returns. They enticed innocent people with lucrative offers, pursuing them to make investment by way of transfer of funds into the accounts of cyber fraudsters.

Among those arrested are Tushar Sharma and Bhavesh Thakur, @ Ankit @ Alex from Delhi, who are the masterminds behind this scam. Other accused persons from Odisha viz. Ranjit Kumar Bal of Kendrapada, Dillip Kumar Lenka of Balasore, Sunil Prasad of Ganjam, and Bishikesan Padhy @ Siba from Rayagada, joined hands with them and were getting current accounts opened in different banks to facilitate the transfer of funds. Similarly, Kalandi Singh & Sudhansu Bhusan Pattanaik @ Bapi from Khordha, Udaybhanu Ghadei @ Papu of Bhubaneswar, Jiten Barad of Nayagarh, Bharat Bhusan Chakra of Jagatsinghpur, Bikash Chandra Rout @ Tutu & Uttam Kumar Sahu of Bhadrak, Satya Ranjan Sahoo from Balasore and Amit Kumar Rout of Ganjam had opened bank accounts in their own name and utilized it for transferring the fraudulently obtained money. They were fully aware of the fact that these accounts were being used for cyber fraud activities and were beneficiaries of the cheated amount.

A victim from Bhubaneswar had approached Cyber Crime Unit, CID CB with complaint regarding an incident of fraud that had happened with him. He stated that individuals posing as staff at Securities Company, Representative of Blackstone Investment Group involved in online trading along with some others defrauded him. On March 29, 2024, victim received a message on Facebook inviting him to join a WhatsApp group focused on institutional trading with discounts on shares and promising high investment returns. After joining the group, he observed the discussions for some days. The group claimed to have completed two rounds of successful trading and persuaded him to join the third round, assuring substantial profits.

The victim subsequently opened a trading account with Blackstone Trading, and initially transferred Rs 5.00 lakhs from his wife’s account. Over a period of time, he transferred a total of Rs 3,04,00,000 from five of his accounts to various accounts specified by cyber criminals until June 11, 2024.

Despite his attempts, he was unable to withdraw back any fund. When he requested for withdrawal, he was asked to pay 20% management fee on his profits, which they claimed had exceeded 300%. His requests went unanswered and the persons as well as the accounts went unreachable, following which he realized that he had fallen victim to a meticulously planned conspiracy and online fraud by this group and their associates.

Consequently, the victim requested the registration of FIR and investigation into the matter. CID CB Cyber PS Case No.39/2024 was registered on 9th July, 2024 under sections 419/ 420/ 465/ 467/ 468/ 471/ 120-B/ 34 IPC read with sections 66-C and 66-D of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Inspector Ashishdev Sahoo was assigned with investigation of the case. Since it was a complex case 5 independent teams were formed by Crime Branch to detect the case and apprehend the accused persons.

After analyzing the money trail, the Cyber Crime Unit of Crime Branch first apprehended Uttam Kumar Sahu, who had shared the account details to Tutu @ Bikash Chandra Rout and then Dilip Kumar Lenka. Thereafter they apprehended Shiba @ Bisikesana Padhy and Sunil P. Dora who were the key link with Delhi based Ankit @ Bhavesh Thakur. Ankit transferred the funds to a crypto wallet after completion of the fraudulent transactions and distributed the commission among all stakeholders.

During the investigation it also came to be known that Dilip Kumar Lenka was associated with one Ranjit Kumar Bal. Ranjit used to obtain account details from Bubu @ Bharat Bhusan Chakra and shared them with Monty @ Tushar Sharma of Delhi. Monty transferred the money to a crypto wallet and distributed the commission.

Other accused persons viz. Kalandi Singh, Jitendra Barad, Sudhanshu Patnaik, Satya Ranjan Sahoo and Papu @ Udaybhanu Ghadei, opened current bank 3 accounts in various banks and provided them to the organized gang of cyber criminals for use in cyber frauds.

In course of investigation the cyber investigation team has seized the following articles from the accused persons.

  1. Mobile phones – 20
  2. SIM Cards – 42
  3. Debit Card – 20
  4. Cheque Book – 3
  5. PAN Card – 3
  6. ADHAAR Card – 5

The modus operandi of these cyber criminals was that they identified their targets through social media and used to establish contact. Then they invited them to join WhatsApp or Telegram groups for discussions on trading and investment. Subsequently, the victims were enticed into opening fake trading accounts with promise of high returns. Although the victims could see that their money was apparently growing in the fake trading platform, they are prevented from making any withdrawal. When they attempted to withdraw, more money was extorted under the guise of processing fees and other charges. Ultimately, the victims were defrauded of significant amount, which were subsequently transferred to the crypto accounts of all involved criminals.

From the verification in the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal (NCRP) of I4C, Ministry of Home Affairs, these accused have been involved in a series of cyber frauds across the country. Papu @ Udayabhanu Ghadei shared 3 accounts which have been reported in 23 offences, Uttam Kumar Sahu’s 5 accounts in 17 offences, Dilip Kumar Lenka’s 12 accounts in 12 offences, Bisikesan Padhi @ Shiba’s 9 accounts in 7 offences, Sunil Dora’s 5 accounts in 3 offences and Ankit @ Bhavesh Thakur’s 8 accounts have been involved in 81 offences across the nation including this case.

The Cyber Crime Unit of Crime Branch cautions the citizens to exercise necessary precaution while getting involved in online investment activities and also to 4 verify the authenticity of entities offering financial services. In recent years, there has been a concerning increase in cases of investment fraud, with perpetrators often utilizing WhatsApp or Telegram groups to defraud people. These groups promise unrealistic returns and lure individuals to deposit money into suggested accounts.

For the safety of their investments, citizens are requested to be wary of the unrealistic promise of high returns and scrutinize investment opportunities thoroughly before committing funds. By remaining vigilant and following the safety guidelines, individuals can safeguard their investments and protect themselves from becoming a victim of online investment fraud.

Crime Branch appeals to citizens that if they encounter any suspicious online activities or become victims of any kind of cyber frauds or crime, they should immediately report such incidents promptly by dialling Toll Free 1930 Cyber Crime Help Line or log on to www.cybercrime.gov.in and register their complaint without delay. They can also report suspected fraud numbers in the CHAKSHU portal of Department of Telecommunication https://sancharsaathi.gov.in/sfc/ or at cybercrime reporting portal of i4C, MHA https://cybercrime.gov.in/Webform/cyber_suspect.aspx.

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