Our Bureau

Ahmedabad, Jan 6

EDIT seven pictures on Adobe Photoshop, a common software, and walk away with Rs 7,500 per month. Too good to be true? For about 5,100 people, mostly students in Ahmedabad, it was exactly that as they fell prey to a Ponzi scheme that allegedly duped them all to the tune of Rs 5 crore.

According to a complaint filed with the Ahmedabad police on Wednesday, as many as 5,100 persons have allegedly been duped by a company claiming to be engaged in carrying out computer graphics services.

The company's office, in a posh commercial area of Ahmedabad, is closed.

The complaint alleges that the promoters have vanished with funds collected as security deposit from its freelance workers.

The company issued advertisements offering Rs 7,500 to edit seven pictures on a CD.

The catch, however, was that a `security deposit' of Rs 10,000 was to be made by those taking `assignments', as the CDs contained pictures of jewellery that were proprietary designs of the company's client.

One individual was given only one CD per month, but the company itself encouraged people to register under different names.

"They did not have any problems if we registered under several names. All that we had to do was to edit pictures of jewellery and return them within a month. I thought if I invested Rs 50,000 once as registration, I would be making almost that much money every month," said Mr Piyush, one of the complainants.

For several months, the company made prompt payments to participants in the scheme and encouraged them to spread the word around.

The problem arose when payment cheques issued by it started bouncing for insufficient funds.

The police have made one arrest in this connection and four others are absconding.

"The company was planning to operate a money rotation racket by registering people and expanding the network or chain. We have unearthed several such multi-level marketing schemes in the past," said a police official.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 7, 2006)
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