Two more members of the syndicate were caught in the US and Canada, taking the number of arrests to six.
The syndicate is estimated to have extorted around $20 million from the victims.
The FBI interviewed around 50 victims and Delhi Police spoke with two of Them over a video call. According to special commissioner HGS Dhaliwal, the suspects posed as Uttam Dhillon, a well-known American attorney and a former law enforcement officer who served as the acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Posing as DEA agents led by Dhillon, the suspects trapped victims after threatening them with arrest in fake cases of drug trafficking and child pornography.
“The prime suspect has been identified as Vatsal Mehta from West Delhi’s Janakpuri. His aide is Parth Armarkar from Ahmedabad,” special CP Dhaliwal said.
This is the third operation by Dhaliwal’s team with the FBI. They had busted a similar racket out of west Delhi earlier. The wanted gangster Deepak Boxer was also nabbed from Mexico with the FBI’s help.
The latest racket operated out of Delhi and Uganda. Apart from Mehta and Armarkar, two others — Deepak Arora and Prashant Kumar — worked for the gang from other places. The suspects travelled between Uganda and India to dodge law enforcement agencies.
“The suspects contacted victims posing as Dhillon and claimed they had found incriminating videos and evidence implicating them in child pornography or drug trafficking. The victims would Google Dhillon’s name and believe the crooks to be cops,” Dhaliwal said.
The victims were shown fake evidence of recovery of objectionable clips from their computer systems and were accused of working for global drug cartels. Their search history was manipulated and presented to them. Fearing incarceration and legal hassles, many paid up. The gang started first asked for 1 lakh dollars. After negotiation, the agreed amount was taken in cash, gold or cryptocurrency.
Some victims approached police in their respective areas in the US. The matter was brought to the notice of the DEA and the FBI. Surveillance suggested that the suspects were India-based after which the special cell was contacted. The Interpol, through CBI, also helped in coordination.
“In December 2022, the FBI Office of the Legal Attaché, New Delhi, collaborated with us to affect the arrest of four subjects, who were part of an international operation for crimes in the US, Canada and India,” Dhaliwal said.
The FBI shared technical evidence and information on suspects after which look-out notices were issued to track their movements. The police first nabbed Armarkar in Ahmedabad and he led the cops to others.
Mehta and Armarkar are in their late twenties. The other two are in their mid-forties, police said. They had specific roles like “runners” and blockers”. The police are quizzing them to know more about the roles.
The suspects were produced in court and sent to five-day police custody.