Fraud Alert: Scams Relating to MHADA Flats & Bank-seized Property
There are two fundamental reasons why people get defrauded so easily—they are motivated by greed or fear into making wrong decisions or taking misguided action. People easily part with hard-earned money when someone offers them a higher return—that is greed. When someone is coerced or threatened to part with hard-earned money, the fear factor is at play. In both cases, people respond unthinkingly, or their mind is blurred by greed or fear. 
 
While examples of builders or developers cheating home-buyers continue to be rife, we are also noticing several cases where buyers lose money while trying to purchase a flat or a property seized by banks from loan defaulters. Such buyers are looking to be able to buy the property cheap. This sometimes spells trouble. 
 
Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) is a state public body primarily engaged in constructing and selling houses/apartments to low- and middle-income groups in urban and semi-urban areas. These houses are sold through an online lottery. Since the cost of these flats is lower than the market rate, most low- and middle-income groups rush to participate in MHADA lotteries. However, since the number of applicants is always large, very few actually get a flat allocated through the lottery.
 
The situation is ripe for the entry of fraudsters guaranteeing to get you a flat in a MHADA building. The Mumbai police have recently arrested six persons for allegedly duping 21 potential buyers of Rs2.30 crore under the pretext of providing flats in the MHADA colony in Prabhadevi. The accused are Sunil Ghatvisawe, his wife Sujata, Prashant Jadhav, Babita Bhangare, Ravi Shivgan and Sarasvati Lokare. Based on a complaint by Dattaprasad Bait, a clerk in the public works department (PWD), police have registered a first information report (FIR) against these six accused.
 
A police official told Hindustan Times that in 2017, Mr Ghatvisawe told Mr Bait that he has a good influence in the MHADA office and offered to get him a flat in the mill workers' category at a MHADA colony near Century Bazaar, Prabhadevi in Mumbai below the prevailing market price.
 
Lured by this offer, Mr Bait and some of his relatives paid Rs2.30 crore to Mr Ghatvisawe from April 2017 to November 2019. They even signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the six accused. However, the accused failed to provide any flat to the 21 people who had paid the money.
 
In his complaint, Mr Bait says, "To gain trust, the accused took us to Prabhadevi and showed us the flats in Century Bazar MHADA Colony in Prabhadevi. Later the accused also took us to MHADA's Bandra office. There, our biometric details were collected. We had no reason to raise any doubt on Mr Ghatvisawe's intention."
 
All the victims, in this case, are project-affected people and had received Rs30 lakh each from a builder as compensation. They used this money to buy flats in MHADA schemes but were duped, the newspaper says. 
 
This is a simple case of cheating. However, criminals have more innovative ways to cheat people. Take, for example, the case of four people, including two lawyers, who offered flats seized by banks (from loan defaulters) at a discounted price. I wonder how many will be able to say no to such a deal. 
 
This is precisely what happened. The Mumbai police have arrested the four persons for allegedly cheating more than 150 people across Mumbai, Thane and Palghar of Rs3.75 crore by promising them low-cost flats seized by banks. 
 
According to a report from Mid-Day, "the gang operated luxurious offices in various locations and with different names, and hired fresh graduates to work as telecallers. They procured details of prospective buyers from websites that deal with buying and selling real estate. The telecallers lured buyers by offering cheap properties."
 
The gang operated from various locations under different names, like 'Bidders Winners' (Virar), 'Land Loader' (Thane) and 'Patil Digital' (Azad Maidan). "Just like their companies, the gang also maintained different names. Rahul Bhat's original name is Parvez Dastagir Shaikh, and his other aliases include Peter Sikwera and Asif Sayyed. The 31-year-old is a Mira Road resident. Nitin Sharma's real name is Saheb Husain Shaikh, and his aliases include Prashant Bansal and Sohel Shaikh. The 28-year-old is a Bhayandar resident. Alayada Shah's real name is Hina Iqbal Chudesra while her other alias is Hina Sayyed. She is a resident of Kashimira," the report says.
 
Quoting a police official, the newspaper says, "Parvez and Saheb were the masterminds of the racket. Saheb continued to practise law at various courts in the city. Hina, who is in a relationship with Parvez, is a graduate and speaks fluent English. She used to act as a manager at the offices."
 
Both above-mentioned reports  highlight how easily people get lured to any offer and end up losing money. There are certain things related to MHADA flats and the auction of seized properties conducted by banks that we must understand. 
 
For any flat from MHADA, the buyer first needs to register on its website https://housing.mhada.gov.in/landing. Based on income levels, applicants are categorised into economically weaker sections (EWS), low-income group (LIG), middle-income group (MIG) and high-income group (HIG). A MHADA project may have a specific number of flats reserved for any category. Based on the income group, the applicant can select the lottery and scheme he wishes to participate in. Names of the winners of the lottery are displayed on the MHADA website. In case of any query, contact only on numbers provided on the MHADA website. 
 
Every bank seizes properties after due process when the borrower fails to repay the loan. To recover its money, the bank auctions these properties or flats. You can find details of such properties on the bank's website. 
 
For example, State Bank of India (SBI) branches publish advertisements in local newspapers to auction mortgage properties. "This advertisement contains the details of websites where the prospective bidders can access the particulars of locations of the properties with full details. It also guides the prospective bidders on the pre-requirements for participating in the e-auction," SBI says. 
 
So, the next time, do due diligence if anyone offers you cheaper properties or flats. In the case of bank-seized property, visit the bank branch or its website to find out more details and how you can buy it from the bank. Needless to say, stay away from touts and fraudsters.
 
How To Report Cyberfraud?
 
Do report cybercrimes to the national cybercrime reporting portal http://cybercrime.gov.in or call the toll-free national helpline number, 1930. To follow on social media: Twitter (@Cyberdost), Facebook (CyberDostI4C), Instagram (cyberdostl4C), Telegram (cyberdosti4c).
 
 
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