New Delhi: It seems to be a scene straight out of Steven Spielberg’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks-starrer Catch Me If You Can.
For months, a con artist calling himself ‘Lieutenant Shivam Pandey’ allegedly duped people into believing that he was an Indian Army officer posted with the Srinagar-based Chinar Corps unit. He even published a book under this identity last year — Untold Story From The Indian Army — available on e-commerce sites, and was active on social media.
On Monday, however, Pandey’s luck ran out. The alleged imposter was arrested by officers of the military intelligence and the Kolkata Police from the West Bengal capital’s New Market area, after over a month’s surveillance. He is currently in police custody.
While the Army is yet to find his real name, sources in the force told ThePrint that he was rather “evasive”. It has, however, been found during investigations that the accused is a resident of Ghazipur in eastern Uttar Pradesh, the sources claimed.
Four others, his “body guards”, have also been arrested, sources in the Army said.
According to sources in the Army, it was the accused’s active social media presence which finally did him in. The alleged imposter had been promoting his book on social media the past few months, and would also post about his self-proclaimed experiences in the Army.
He had also been trying to persuade Twitter and Facebook’s parent company Meta to put a ‘blue tick’ against his account, which is the way to indicate that an account is authentic.
Catching the ‘conman’
According to the sources, military intelligence noticed the man’s profile while monitoring social media activities. Seeing a “serving officer” so active, intelligence officers put his page under observation.
After a month of surveillance, military intelligence were sure that the accused was not an Army officer, claimed sources.
According to sources, when the Army received a tip-off that he would be travelling to Kolkata, an elaborate plan for his arrest was set up, along with the Kolkata Police.
Sources said the accused walked straight into the trap and was arrested near the headquarters of the Army’s Eastern Command around midnight Monday.
The accused was dressed in combat fatigues even at the time of his arrest, they added.
A search of his possessions revealed a fake Army identity card and multiple writing pads with the Army letterhead.
Interestingly, the accused had alerted netizens last month to the alleged misconduct of another “imposter”, who had allegedly robbed Rs 2.5 lakh from his friend.
@hydcitypolice @APPOLICE100 Fraud alert
This guy who is speaking, I am the general manager of YouTube and fraudulently took 2.5 lakhs from my friend.
Scammer Contact no. +918768740812 pic.twitter.com/tBSS65uBZV
— LT SHIVAM PANDEY🍁 – INDIAN ARMY (@ltshivampandey) April 7, 2022
While this may not be the first time the Army has caught an impostor, it perhaps is the first time an individual has had such an elaborate cover story, one that even includes a book.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)