The main suspect, believed to have scammed hundreds of people of their hard-earned money through online fraud, may escape being charged.
This after valuable evidence was stolen from right under the noses of the police.
Guardian Media was told that the evidence implicating the suspect, was secretly removed while it was lodged with the T&T Fraud Squad.
The suspect was in custody at the time it was removed. An investigation has since been launched to find out who stole the evidence.
The victims of the bank fraud are customers of Scotiabank, which in November, issued an appeal to all its customers not to reveal confidential bank information electronically.
The 40-year-old suspect, who lives in the East-West Corridor, is said to be the mastermind behind the online fraud racket using software to execute his heists.
Over the past few months, a special police team was set up to deal with online fraud. The elite team conducted a probe into reports of phishing, a type of online fraud in which a customer is sent an illegitimate e-mail from the “bank” asking for credit card information.
The fraudster usually directs the customer to what appears to be the bank’s website with a similar LOGO and URL. Police said criminals have removed money from accounts within a couple of hours via phishing.
The source said after the suspect was arrested several critical pieces of electronics including a laptop and software were seized from the suspect’s premises.
The officers questioned the suspect for several hours. The electronics were then taken to the Cyber Crime and Analysis Unit but when the police got there they were informed by the Cyber Crime officers that the laptop’s hard drive was missing.
Someone apparently unscrewed the bottom of the laptop and took out the hard drive which is an electromechanical data storage device that uses magnetic storage to store and retrieve digital information. All evidence had disappeared and the police said without the evidence there is no proof to lay charges.
The suspect was charged with several minor offences unrelated to the electronic evidence that disappeared.
Last month, Scotiabank T&T advised its customers not to respond to a series of unauthorised text messages being circulated in the public domain which requested confidential bank information.
Saying the messages were fraudulent and considered “phishing” Scotiabank advised clients to not respond to the texts, open attachments or click on links.
Saying the messages should be deleted, Scotiabank advised that it will never send unsolicited text messages asking for confidential information such as an ATM pin.
Anyone who entered personal information by clicking on a link or suspect fraudulent behaviour was advised to call 62-SCOTIA (627-2684).
CNC3’s executive producer Sampson Nanton, who was the victim of online fraud on December 21 in which his entire salary was wiped clean, said the recent arrest of a suspect and the removal of evidence was distressing.
In a Whatsapp message, Nanton wrote, “Seeing the responses of people following my post on what occurred to me, I have an even greater appreciation for what the victims go through.”
He added, “ Even as I write this I’m in a bank line over-hearing someone complaining of the same thing. I’m grateful that my bank recognised there was a problem in the first place and called me. But it’s sad to know that so many people are losing funds to criminals who really don’t care about the impact it has on people’s lives. And while most banks eventually refund the victims, sometimes it takes so long that the impact is felt heavily.”
Nanton said he was hopeful that the police will get to the bottom of the scam soon and some real tough penalties will be given to the perpetrators as well.
Reporter: Radhica De Silva