Moscow Police Bust $1.6 Mln Medicine Scam Aimed at Elderly

MOSCOW, February 1 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow police have detained and charged four suspects from Russia and Ukraine accused of defrauding hundreds of elderly customers of tens of millions of rubles by selling them dietary supplements under the guise of costly pharmaceuticals, city police said Friday.

“According to preliminary data, at least 2,000 people fell victim” to the alleged scam, police said, adding their initial estimate of the “damage” was about 50 million rubles (just over $1.6 million).

The suspected con artists – who were charged on Thursday with fraud – placed advertisements in local media for a non-existent medical center, according to Moscow’s main police directorate. The ruse attracted mostly senior citizens.

“When speaking by phone, the fraudsters presented themselves as doctors and, using psychological tactics, convinced people they had serious illnesses. They then sold them dietary supplements at inflated prices, passing them off as expensive foreign medicines,” the police said.

When buyers realized 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 also said they had shut down two call centers based in rented apartments in Moscow, but believe elderly people in other Russian regions had also been conned by the alleged fraud.

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

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