Travelling Kerala couple arrested for ripping off unemployed youths promising IT jobs, visas

fraud couple
Manu and Sharanya Sasidharan after they were arrested from a homestay at Kalavoor in Alappuzha on Monday. Photo: Special arrangement

Kasaragod: Kasaragod police have arrested a couple for allegedly defrauding an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) of Rs 4 lakh by promising to get her BTech son a job in Wipro.

But during the investigation, police officers found that the couple had allegedly cheated job seekers across the state by promising them travel visas to go abroad and jobs in tech companies.

They create fake accounts on social media platforms such as Facebook and dupe people with fake promises of visas and jobs, said Kanhangad DySP P Balakrishnan Nair. Once they are busted in an area, the couple -- identified as Sharanya Sasidharan of Thiruvananthapuram and Manu of Nenmara in Palakkad district -- go into hiding for some time and come up in another place under another social media identity, he said.

"We arrested them because they kept changing locations and were finding new victims," said Cheemeni police station house officer - sub-inspector K Ajitha, who is investigating the case.

Hosdurg First Class Magistrate Court remanded Sharanya and Manu in custody for two weeks on Monday.

"As of now, they have been charged with only cheating (Section 420 of the IPC). But once we question them after taking them into police custody, we will press other charges such as forgery and those under IT Act," said sub-inspector Ajitha.

Representational image
Representational image.

She said the couple had given the ASHA worker's son a forged offer letter and other job-related documents from Wipro. Over a period of time, the single mother transferred around Rs 4 lakh to Sharanya's bank account through GPay, said the officer.

Wipro has put up a disclaimer on its website saying it does not charge any fee at any stage of the recruitment process and has not authorised agencies or partners to collect any fee for recruitment. "If you encounter any suspicious mail, advertisements, or persons who offer jobs at Wipro, please do let us know by contacting us at," it said.

Such disclaimers have little effect on poor families in remote villages trying to escape poverty. "In the ASHA worker's case, she raised money that she did not have to help her son get a better future," said Ajitha. Sharanya and Manu trawl the social media fishing for such people, she said.  

Sub-inspector Ajitha said Sharanya has three children, one of them with autism, from her first marriage. Sharanya reportedly told police that her first husband died in an accident and married Manu two years ago.

The couple moves from one homestay to another with her three children, her parents, Sasidharan Nair and Sasikala, and her brother.

"The whole family was staying in a homestay in Munnar when Sharanya and Manu cheated the ASHA worker," said Ajitha.

Representational image
Representational image.

That was sometime in October. Police found out their address from Sharanya's bank. "We served the couple notice to appear before us. But they chose to switch off all their phones and shifted base to Moozhikulam, a village near Aluva.

Police found that they changed their addresses on their Aadhaar (unique ID document) and used that to open new bank accounts.

In Moozhikulam and Alangad, both 15km from Aluva, Manu has taken money from several people promising to get them job visas. "We find out the couple borrows money even from milkman and newspaper vendors and then vanishes to another place. They don't do any work," said Ajitha.

When police reached Munnar, they had disappeared without fully paying for the homestay. "But we found they left behind a bag with their Aadhaar, PAN cards, and driving licences. That's how we found out that they kept changing addresses on their Aadhaar," she said.

By the time the police reached Moozhikulam, they had dumped their new phone numbers and vanished again. "But we found they had bought two new phones and sold their laptop for Rs 7,000 before leaving Moozhikulam," said sub-inspector Ajitha.

Police will be collecting the laptop from the shop. Investigators said they used the IMEI (the unique International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers of the new phones to find the couple's new phone numbers and found that they were living in another homestay at Kalavoor in Alappuzha. "People recalled the family easily because they travel with a child with autism," said Ajitha.

A team of Cheemeni police knocked on their door around 4.45 am on Monday. "We did not want to create a scene before the children. So we returned soon with the couple," the officer said.

She said the child with autism had become much weaker compared to how he was when she saw him in October.

Ajitha said the whole family knew how Sharanya and Manu were making money. "They are enjoying the easy money but we did not charge them because we do not have enough evidence against them," she said.

On her part, Sharanya reportedly told police that she had failed class X and was not in a position to commit the crimes she is accused of doing. Manu said he was an orphan and was raised by foster parents, who are no longer alive. "She also said that she was pregnant with Manu's child. At least we proved that it is a lie," said Ajitha. She is not carrying.

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