Mastermind arrested in August; money siphoned off inactive accounts

Two men, with the help of an employee of a well-known BPO firm, siphoned Rs. 79.5 lakh from inactive bank accounts.

The bank fraud wing of the Central Crime Branch (CCB) arrested the woman employee last month. Her accomplices however, were only held on Thursday.

Sources with the CCB said Praseeda (34), a senior manager at Tata Consultancy Services on G.N. Chetty Road, T. Nagar that handles banking operations for Citibank, had found and accessed bank accounts which had been inactive for a few years over the course of two months.

“She zeroed in on five such accounts. Then, she hacked into the office database and put in requests from three of those account-holders for changes in address and issuing of debit cards. The new addresses Praseeda gave were of her accomplices. From the other two accounts, she made online transfers of over Rs. 25 lakh to the accounts of her accomplices,” said K. Vijayakumar, the investigating officer in the case.

Once the debit cards were issued by the banks to the new addresses, her schoolmates Mohanamurali (35) of Valasaravakkam and his friend Sriram (31) of West Mogappair, received the debit cards and used them to withdraw over Rs. 50 lakh.

In order to eliminate any suspicion, the men had previously made calls to the mobile numbers of the first three account-holders. Once it was ascertained that all three account-holders were deceased, the plan was put into operation. For the other two accounts, Praseeda deactivated the SMS alerts the bank sends whenever there is a transaction made.

“Mohanamurali, who was a struggling realtor, devised the fraud with Praseeda and Sriram and she initiated it at her office between the months of June and August. In the end, the trio had pocketed an overall sum of Rs. 79.5 lakh,” Mr. Vijayakumar added.

The fraud only came to light when the relative of one of the account-holders in Mumbai received a letter from the bank informing him about the change of address. Suspecting foul play, he alerted Citibank, who conducted an internal probe.

Praseeda was terminated from employment and a complaint was lodged by TCS in mid-August. CCB arrested her on August 17. She was later released on bail. Mohanamurali and Sriram who absconded immediately, were apprehended in Tiruchy on Thursday afternoon.

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