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A five-member gang that allegedly cheated more than 18,000 people in Chennai, Coimbatore, Salem and Tiruppur in the guise of investment in a money-doubling scheme was arrested.

Assistant Commissioner of Police, Neelankarai, K.N. Sudarshan, said: “In this case, the accused had modest educational background but they have cheated well-educated people using a unique modus operandi in the city and several parts of the State. We have arrested five persons and further investigation is on to trace a woman accomplice.”

The main accused Sathish Kumar, 35, is a school dropout. The gang members started their operations in the guise of multi-level marketing (MLM) a decade ago and cheated several investors in the western districts and later they expanded their operations.

Modus operandi

They appointed team leaders to canvas and bring the investors to the firm on a commission basis, the police said.

Explaining the modus operandi of the gang, R. Kamalakannan, inspector of police in Neelankarai station, said the accused would lure people claiming to possess a stock of iridium with a firm called ‘John MacNan’ in Germany and were willing to sell the item. They promised to give up to ₹10 lakh on an investment of ₹10,000 from the proceeds from the sale. But they failed to give the returns as promised.

They set up an office in a posh bungalow on East Coast Road in Neelankarai with a few computer peripherals and pretended to be busy with paper work needed to bring the sale proceeds from Germany. They conducted “business meetings” with team leaders and canvassed investments. At a meeting held on Sunday, a team leader questioned the accused about the promised returns, which resulted in a commotion.

Based on a complaint given by K. Chalapathy, 53, of Mogappair, police rounded up the gang at the bungalow and arrested five of them — Satish Kumar, 35, and Raja, 37, of Tiruppur, Mohan Kumar, 47, and Saravana Kumar, 43, of Coimbatore and Balakrishnan, 50, of Tiruchi. Laptops, desktops and two cars were seized from them.