How a lawyer nailed scamsters after 10 years | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

How a lawyer nailed scamsters after 10 years

Mar 24, 2024 10:35 AM IST

The lawyer had finished his college education in 2014 when he met Rahul Singh and Danish Alam, the alleged mastermind of a scamsters

MUMBAI: A lawyer’s dogged pursuit of justice after being duped of 10 lakh on the pretext of a government job ten years ago bore fruit bore fruit on Friday, when Santacruz police arrested Rahul Singh alias Kundan Kumar Sharma, 40, one of the three accused in the case. Dhanraj Kamble, the Mumbai-based 38-year-old criminal lawyer, had just finished his college education and was appearing for various competitive exams in 2014 when he met Rahul Singh and Danish Alam, the alleged mastermind of a pan-India network of scamsters who duped unemployed youth under the false pretext of helping them secure government jobs.

Mumbai, India - March 8, 2024: Lawyer Dhanraj Kamle pose for the photos out side the Andheri Court in Mumbai, India, on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
Mumbai, India - March 8, 2024: Lawyer Dhanraj Kamle pose for the photos out side the Andheri Court in Mumbai, India, on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)

Enticed by their demeanour and the promise of a job in the Railways, Kamble paid them 10 lakh courtesy loans from relatives, underwent ‘training’ in Kolkata for several weeks and was handed an appointment letter, which he realised was fake after he returned home. He tried to register a complaint with the police, but officials blamed him instead for being naïve.

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Left without option, Kamble moved on – he studied law and started practicing as a lawyer at the sessions court even as he repaid loans taken from relatives in tranches. In 2022, he came across a newspaper article saying Alam and his associates had been arrested by the Gondia police for duping unemployed youth.

A frenzy of activity followed. Kamble got in touch with the police – not only in Gondia but also other places where youth had been duped on the false pretext of government jobs and compiled information on cases against Alam, Singh and other gang members. He also got in touch with five other victims and on March 5, they jointly filed an FIR with the Santacruz police saying Alam, Singh and others had duped them of 34 lakh, which led to Singh’s arrest.

News reignites quest for justice

In March 2022, Kamble spotted a newspaper article saying Alam had been arrested by the Gondia police for allegedly cheating unemployed youth by promising them jobs in the railways. Alam was subsequently handed over to the Nagpur police, whose Economic Offences Wing (EOW) was probing a 10 lakh cheating case against him and four other accused.

Taking advantage of his knowledge of law, Kamble approached the Nagpur police seeking more information about the case and was redirected to sub inspector Asaram Chavhan of Gondia police.

Chavan, who had nabbed a local agent and then posed as a candidate to arrest Alam and Rahul Singh red-handed, intimated the lawyer about the modus operandi of the scamsters.

“He told me that they have a network of agents in all districts across India and some agents are even paid a monthly salary. They also have ‘training centers’ in Bihar and West Bengal,” Kamble told HT. The phone numbers used by agents to contact job seekers were registered under other people’s identity documents and they remained switched off between 9pm and 11am to avert the possibility of police tracking their locations, Chavan further told Kamble.

“All of them have multiple identity documents under different names. In fact, when Chavan and other police personnel went to nab Alam and Singh, they showed Aadhar cards bearing different names and claimed they were victims of mistaken identity who were being unfairly implicated,” said Kamble. The Gondia police, however, had photo evidence that disproved their claims.

While the FIR pegged the scam at 10 lakh, by the time the EOW filed the third chargesheet in the case, the amount had gone up to 14 crore.

Two persons associated with the case had died by suicide in the interim – they included Mohan Gajbhe, an assistant engineer with Mahavitaran, and Amit Kowe, an alleged agent of the network who was under pressure as many victims were asking him to return their money. Subsequently, the police booked Alam and the other four accused for abetment to suicide.

Profile of scamsters

In all, the Nagpur police arrested five persons including Alam and Singh for allegedly duping youngsters under the false pretext of helping them secure government jobs.

Though little information was available about Alam, the police found that Kailash Singh was the son of a railway officer. “He forged his father’s identity card and showed that off in front of job seekers when they started their operations around 2010,” said a police officer.

Rakesh Khurana, 50, another accused, was a class I officer with Western Coalfields Limited. He lived in the upscale Clark Town locality in Nagpur, was a member of the elite CP Club in the city and was seen in photographs with several renowned political leaders, administrative heads and other dignitaries. Implicated in cases of embezzlement and establishment of an unauthorised recruitment board at Western Coalfields, Khurana had been suspended from his job earlier.

Another accused, Shilpa Palparthy, 40, was a trained nurse working in Malaysia whose husband was a lawyer. “The lure of easy money led her to set up a placement agency in Nagpur. They would also use social media and pamphlets to advertise these jobs,” said assistant sub inspector Shantaram Mudamali of Nagpur police, who helped Kamble find more details about Alam and his gang.

Taking debts to pay bribes

After Kamble learned about the background and modus operandi of the scamsters, he got in touch with other police stations in Maharashtra where similar cases were registered. He spent nearly 1 lakh out of his pocket on traveling and compiling documents about Alam and his associates’ misdeeds.

Simultaneously, Kamble also began contacting people who were allegedly duped by Alam and his associates, which led him to Irfan Maneri, 33, and Mahadev Garde, 38, and three other victims who were collectively cheated of 34 lakh.

Maneri had just passed his class 12 board exams in 2014 when he met Danish Alam, Rahul Singh and other associates at a posh hotel in Mumbai, after having heard from friends in the neighbourhood that they could help him get a government job.

“I thought I would be able to take financial responsibility of my family sooner than I imagined,” Maneri recalled. “So I did not hesitate to pay them 6 lakh as demanded by liquidating my father’s provident fund.”

Maneri, who works on a sales-based job by day and drives a cab at night to make ends meet, says he still feels guilty about using up all his father’s savings due to his wrong decision.

“My father is still trying to repay loans that I had taken, while I live under the constant fear that an emergency might compel me to take fresh loans,” he said. His earnings are barely enough to cover the necessities of his family comprising his parents, wife and two children. “We don’t have any savings,” he rued.

Like Maneri, Mahadev Garde too holds two jobs to tide over the crisis perpetrated by the fraud he was subjected to in 2016. Garde had failed his class 10 board exams then and was thrilled at the prospect of a government job, even if it was a less prestigious designation such as peon or porter.

“I thought I could fare well for myself and take care of my agriculturist parents back in my native village in Sangli district,” said Garde, recalling his happiness after having completed his ‘training’ in Kolkata. Promised a posting in Miraj railway station, not very far from his native village, he kept waiting for a formal appointment later, which never arrived.

“The next four years of my life were spent paying back loans and I had to delay my marriage until I turned 32. Even now, I work for over fifteen hours a day – as an electrician until evening and then as a food delivery boy,” he said. “Had I not fallen prey to this scam, I would be much better placed, with my own small house in Vasai-Virar.”

Getting help from the police

Aside from getting in touch with victims and compiling information on the perpetrators, Kamble also made it a point to attend court proceedings in cases where Alam and others were accused. “Their custody was being granted to different police stations such as Matheran, Ambarnath and Tulinj. I kept track of all this as I wanted to ensure that they were punished for their crimes,” said Kamble.

He recalled meeting Alam in court during this period and asking him to return his money. “He just laughed at me and dared me to do what I could,” he recalled.

In January 2024, after Kamble had collected the testimonies of multiple victims, he visited the Santacruz police station, including with his co-complainants, hoping to register a case. “But the police were very reluctant to register a complaint as the incident occurred ten years ago,” he said.

Meanwhile, on February 27, both Alam and Singh were released from Kalyan’s Adarwadi jail as they had completed their prison term in the case registered by the Nagpur police.

Finally, on March 5, after Kamble sought the intervention of Rajtilak Roshan, the deputy commissioner of police for zone 9, the Santacruz police registered an FIR against Alam, Singh and a third member of the gang.

When asked about the delay, an officer from Santacruz police station said that they had to get the DCP’s permission before registering an FIR in such an old case.

Kamble stepped up vigil further after Alam and others were released on bail on February 27 this year. He called Singh under an assumed identity and said he wanted to run a railway canteen and was ready to pay the required bribe to secure a contract. He also intimated the police about their communication, leading to Singh’s arrest on Friday.

“I hope that all the other perpetrators are arrested and they are punished duly by the court,” said the diminutive and unassuming Kamble, who looked very much like any other ordinary working-class Maharashtrian man if his doggedness was discounted.

Modus Operandi

Danish Alam is the alleged mastermind of a pan-India network of scamsters who dupe young people by promising them government jobs.

Agents are located in major urban centres; they carry multiple identity documents under different names

Agents reach out to young, unemployed men and women in job fairs, placement agencies, college campuses and railway canteens; they buy expensive food and drinks for candidates

Agents also reach out to job seekers via phone calls; their numbers remain switched off between 9pm and 11am to avoid surveillance

Youth are enticed with the promise of jobs in Indian Railways through ministry of railways quota or other govt organisations if they can pay a few lakh rupees

In order to sound convincing, agents drop names of ministers and speak about their influence within the railways

Job seekers who pay up receive forged letters on official letterheads calling them for a medical test and training in Kolkata/Bihar spread over several weeks

Medical test involves a uniformed person collecting blood samples of candidates for ‘testing.’ Lectures are held in railway quarters

After training, youth are given forged appointment letters with details of posting and joining date.

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