The Kunnamkulam police in Thrissur faced a bizarre case when a person approached them, complaining that a 31-year-old woman had not returned the money she had promised him. When the woman failed to turn up despite asking her to appear at the station, the police suspected this was not a petty case. Further investigation revealed that the woman, identified as Priya, has been allegedly running a scam, where she would lure people, especially the youth, and swindle lakhs of money. The Kunnamkulam police arrested Priya in the fraud case from her rented house in Thrissur.
The police officials say that Priya followed a pattern when she lured her victims. In fact, she used her three children to sell a sob story.
A native of Pothencode in Thiruvananthapuram, Priya has three children and her husband abandoned her. She went missing from Thiruvananthapuram a year ago and later surfaced in Guruvayur, where she lived in a rented house in Kunnamkulam. She made her neighbours believe that her three children were adopted.
Priyaâ€™s first victim was a Malayalee Gulf expatriate, whom she befriended through Facebook. She introduced herself as a social worker who is raising three adopted children. He fell for the story, say the police.
â€śAs their friendship grew, she shared her plans to start a jewellery shop in Kunnamkulam, for which she asked for Rs 21 lakhs. The man offered the amount. She took a room on rent, put up a board and started the interior work, thus creating the impression of a soon-to-be-opened jewellery shop,â€ť explains Kunnankulam police station Circle Inspector KG Suresh Kumar, who along with Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Sinoj and SI Shajahan, led the investigation.
It did not end there. She told the NRI that she had a parcel of land in Thiruvananthapuram, which is under dispute; and that, she can sell it only if she produces a marriage certificate.
â€śShe promised to give him half of the amount after selling the land. Convinced, he approached his unmarried son to marry her. In a namesake wedding, Priya and the manâ€™s son registered their marriage. However, after the interrogation, it was found that she was planning to blackmail the man and extort more money,â€ť says Suresh Kumar.
According to the police case, her next victims were a group of young people who were engaged in the interior work of the â€śjewellery shopâ€ť.
â€śPriya has the ability to talk and persuade people. She told the youngsters that she is going to start a finance institute. She managed to make them invest Rs 15 lakh towards this,â€ť says the CI.
Her next prey allegedly was a Thrissur businessman, who was running a small textile shop. After the recent floods, during Onam, she got in touch with the man on Facebook. She convinced him and bought the shop, including the stocks, by paying an advance amount of Rs 1 lakh. Priya promised to pay the remaining amount soon.
â€śHowever, she sold all the stocks and kept the money for herself. This textile businessman was the first complainant in this case, from Thrissur,â€ť adds the CI.
To get more information on the woman, the Kunnamkulam police contacted the police station in her native Pothencode. â€śWe learnt that she was involved in a similar money fraud case in 2017 and has been absconding since then. Also, in 2012, Priya was involved in a lottery scam, which landed her in prison for 30 days,â€ť says the CI.
The officials say that Priya has managed to swindle around Rs 35 lakh from various people in Thrissur. â€śShe said she has invested the amount in some properties and squandered it on leading an exorbitant life,â€ť he said.
As Priya has admitted to the fraud according to the police, she has been remanded in sub-jail in Kunnamkulam. Meanwhile, the Pothencode police have requested for Priyaâ€™s custody in the cases registered against her at their station.