Maharashtra: MCOCA invoked against defendant in latest ‘Loan App’ case

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Pune City Police invoked Maharashtra Organized Crime Control Act (MCOCA) against nine people arrested in connection with loan application related crimes.

Police recently claimed to have uncovered a major online extortion racket operating through loan apps with international connections and masterminds believed to be from China and Dubai.

These include the 100th MCOCA case filed under the supervision of Pune City police commissioner Amitabh Gupta against city criminal gangs.

While investigating two online extortion complaints against Loan App agents filed by Pune-based victims, the Pune City Cyber ​​Police Station recently busted two bogus call centers in Bengaluru last month. So far, 18 people have been arrested. Police have recovered the data of around one million citizens across India who may have been targeted by Loan App racketeers.

The nine people against whom the MCOCA was invoked include alleged gang leader Dhiraj Bharat Punekar (36) from Solapur as well as his eight alleged aides identified as Shrikrishna Gaikwad (26) from Hadapsar, Pune, Swapnil Nagtilak (29) , Pramod Ransingh (43) from Solapur, Samuel Kumar (40), Sayyad Pasha (23), Mubarak Baig (22) from Karnataka, Mujib Kandiyal alias Ibrahim (42) and Mohammed Maniyat (32) from Kerala . Punekar formed the gang which for the past 10 years has committed crimes through fake advertisements and online loan applications, police said.

According to the police, several online loan applications or loan applications created by fraudsters have gone to Google Play store. People claiming to work for these lending apps call people at random, asking them to download the apps to their cellphones, they said. Once the loan application is downloaded, its agents have access to the contact list, photos and videos saved in the gallery of the user’s mobile phone, police said. A few minutes after downloading the application, the user receives a loan ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 7,000 on an immediate basis. The money is transferred to the bank accounts of loan app users, even if they have not applied for a loan, police added.

Within a week, Loan App agents start making phone calls, demanding repayment of the loan with an interest rate of 30-300%. Officers then transform Loan App users’ photographs into obscene content and release it to people on their phone contact list, police said. This way, money is extorted from Loan App users by showing threats to defame them, they added. Police said the level of harassment is such that users are forced to transfer extortion money to different bank accounts through online transactions.

The money is then withdrawn from bank accounts by major racketeers based in different parts of the country and also overseas, police said.

In a recent incident, a victim was harassed and in June this year forced to transfer around Rs 13.87 lakh to different bank accounts operated by Loan App scammers. In another case, a woman was threatened and abused by Loan App officers and had Rs 1.11 lakh extorted from her online between February and June this year.

In August, a Pune-based youth died by suicide after being allegedly harassed by “Loan App” officers. In another incident, reported in September, a woman who received repeated calls from Loan App employees for loan repayment allegedly murdered her 70-year-old grandmother and stole her valuables.

Since September 2020, the MCOCA against 670 defendants from 100 gangs

Since Amitabh Gupta took office as Pune City Police Commissioner on September 20, 2020, the MCOCA has been invoked against 670 people from 100 gangs. The MCOCA was invoked against seven gangs comprising 54 defendants between September 20, 2020 and December 31, 2020. The following year, up to 400 defendants from 56 gangs were charged under the MCOCA. From January 2022 to present, the MCOCA has been invoked against 216 people from 37 gangs. These included notorious gangs from Bandu Andekar, Nilesh Ghaiwal, Sachin Pote, Bapu Nayar, Suraj Thombre, Mahadev Adlinge and Akram Pathan, a press release said. Charges against these gangs include drug trafficking, illicit manufacture of alcohol, murder, extortion, and serious bodily offenses.

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