$1.6 mn medicine scam busted in Moscow

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Moscow, Feb 1 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Moscow police have detained four suspects for cheating hundreds of elderly customers of a total of 50 million rubles (over $1.6 million) by selling them dietary supplements under the guise of costly pharmaceuticals.

At least 2,000 people fell victim to the alleged scam by the suspects from Russia and Ukraine, police said.

The suspected con artists - who were charged with fraud - placed advertisements in local media for a non-existent medical centre, police said.

The ruse attracted mostly senior citizens.

"When speaking over phone, the fraudsters presented themselves as doctors and, using psychological tactics, convinced people they had serious illnesses," police said.

They then sold their customers dietary supplements at inflated prices, passing them off as expensive foreign medicines.

When buyers realised they had been duped, the suspects contacted them again, this time posing as representatives of various government agencies and offered compensation for the purchased supplements.

However, in order to get compensation, the victims were told they would have to pay processing fees.

Police said searches at the suspects' homes yielded lists of victims, databases, and telephone handsets used for the calls and banking cards.

Police said they had shut down two call centres based in rented apartments in Moscow, but believe elderly people in other Russian regions had also been conned by the fraud.

If found guilty, the four suspects face up to 10 years behind bars.

--IANS/RIA Novosti

pm/dg

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