Thrissur man creates fictitious 'chocolate factory' to swindle crores out of job aspirants

Muhammed Ashiq (51). Photo: Special arrangement

Alappuzha: A native of Thrissur who cheated several people of crores of rupees by promising jobs in a non-existent chocolate company abroad was arrested after a one-and-a-half-year hunt.

Muhammed Ashiq (51) of Kecheri in Thrissur district, was arrested from Selam by a special police team led by Ambalappuzha DySP K G Aneesh.

Ashiq allegedly carried out the job fraud between August and November 2022 and is accused of cheating the job aspirants, mainly from Alappuzha.

“The accused, who studied only till Class 8, carried out the cheating using the fake name Ameer Mustafa. He made the victims believe that he was the Managing Director of the Gulf-based Choco White chocolate company,” DySP Aneesh told Onmanorama.

“In reality, there was no such company. He learned the ways to evade a police probe from YouTube videos, which made the case challenging. Also, his experience of working abroad helped him in the crime,” the police officer said.

Complaints against Ashiq were filed at various police stations in Alappuzha district. “The Punnapra and Edathua stations alone received 10 complaints. This alone amounts to cheating worth Rs 1.5 crore,” the officer said. The victims were handed offer letters and asked to pay certain sums towards visa processing and other expenses. They were then taken abroad and sent back empty-handed, DySP Aneesh said.

The Modus operandi
According to the investigators, the accused who used a false name, introduced himself as the Managing Director of the fictional company via WhatsApp using a foreign sim card and earned the trust of the job aspirants.

“The accused got in touch with website experts using apps like ‘Just Dial’ and created a website for the ‘factory’ with their help, having fake addresses and phone numbers. He then created Facebook pages, added addresses to Google Maps, and even provided service reviews. This way, he won the trust of the victims who could see the website and contact address during Google searches,” said a police officer.

Ashiq offered top positions in his “factory” to a select group of people and then approached the others through them. To avoid being tracked, he asked the victims to hand over the money to these “aides” instead of crediting the money to his bank account.

“A special team was formed and we finally managed to trace the conspirator behind the scam after several months of scientific probe. He frequently shifted his hiding places in cities like Kozhikode, Chennai and Koramangala in Bangalore, which helped him evade arrest. Finally, we got information that he rented a house in Salem and arrested him,” the officer added.

The police investigation also revealed that the accused was planning to carry out another major fraud in the name of ‘Al Moorthasa’ Hyper Market at that time. “We suspect him to have carried out similar frauds using the names ‘Pearls Group’ Hotel, and Al Hadeer Hyper Market. We’ve arrested seven of his aides so far,” the officer said.

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