A Facebook post about an “Urgent appeal for some social media magic” by Rebecca Tott, a yoga enthusiast from the UK led Alt News to stumble upon an incredible story. Rebecca, in her Facebook post talks of how she has fallen “victim to a sickeningly calculated case of human exploitation” by a certain Rupak Chatterjee. Chatterjee approached her through a fake profile, offered an exciting opportunity to work with charities in India, arranged to meet her and it ended with physical and emotional abuse.

Our initial thought on reading her post was that Rebecca had probably fallen victim to one of those small time fraudsters who operate in the by lanes of big cities, making a living out of cheating foreign tourists. However, looking at the details in her post, it became clear that we were on to something much bigger here. She describes an elaborate scam that consisted of “initiating meetings with lawyers, printing visiting cards for his non-existing businesses, creating fictitious Skype profiles of family members to further support his antics, and gaining the respect of hundreds of travellers and tourists alike, no matter where he is”.

When Rebecca decided to take her story to Facebook to warn other women, she found scores of women online, reporting financial and emotional abuse by this man.

It indeed turned out to be something much bigger than one isolated incident. Alt News investigations found that Rebecca is not alone in her ordeal. Scores of tourists have fallen victim and taken to Facebook and online travel forums to warn others about the activities of one Indian con man.

Alt News spoke at length with Rebecca Tott to learn more about her ordeal and piece together this story about one man tarnishing India’s image among online travel communities.

Modus Operandi

The modus operandi is simple. Rupak Chatterjee claims to run an organisation called “Crazy Wanderers Foundation”, something of a backpack community offering tours and volunteering opportunities in India. Chatterjee presents an emotional appeal to evoke sympathy. It is about giving a dignified life to orphans and street children. It is about travelling for a cause and making a difference to the community. It is what he describes as “spirituality, culture and values”

Chatterjee allegedly scours online travel communities under the guise of fake profiles. Upon identifying people, he allegedly makes contact with them through a fake profile of western women, offering them an exciting opportunity of travelling and volunteering. Here is an example of the message that was used to make contact with Rebecca.

Namaste Rebecca, greetings from Nepal and India. We are a group of crazy travel loving people who are currently traveling andworking in India on a cross culture and woman empowerment project that includes charity, yoga, meditation, mantrapathy, reiki, photography, film making and cooking classes, intro to buddhism and Hinduism philosophies, introduction to the real andauthentic culture and much, much more! We are a group of 10-111 passionate and crazy travel lovers, creative free souls and social activists from all over the world who are running this life changing project. the reason why our profile caught our eyes is that we are looking for someone from your country to shoot a move on and somehow I felt from your pictures and profile text that you could be one we are looking for. We would love to travel and workwith you in either India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand Cambodia or other.

The fake profile then introduces the unsuspecting victim to “Dr Rupak Chatterjee” who is presented as someone working for a larger cause. He impresses them with his extensive contacts and the hands-on work in the field.

For the backpack community, this seems to be just the kind of thing they always wanted to do – travel the world and make a difference. Over the next few weeks, according to the accounts by various victims, he makes regular contact with them; smooth talking them into travelling to join him. The victims claim that that is when the financial and emotional exploitation begins.

Harrowing tales of the victims

The online travel and backpack communities are teeming with victims of Chatterjee. His victims have even formed a Facebook group, called “Karma Vishnu Kranti AKA Rupak Chatterjee AKA Dr. Ved AKA Tash/Tashi Scam” that has close to 120 members.

Hi everyone, this page is meant for people who have been fooled, are being scammed or may not be sure what's going on with this man and his yoga retreat businesses and charities in India. This is NOT a group dedicated to harass or bully an innocent man! It is simply a big red flag and a platform where his victims can connect and inform about his methods! Truth: Money has been stolen, women were sexually harassed,trust was violated. Truth: Although reported to Facebook several times his fake Facebook profiles continue to exists and are still active. Truth: He might have organized two yoga retreats on Bali but is now denied entry to Indonesia. We have no evidence to why exactly, but he was on the local news for fraud. Truth: All the screenshots of conversations have only edited out names and identifiers of victims. Truth: The Republic of Lost Souls' website featured several alleged team members that had not agreed to the use of their photo or name and it was taken offline. Truth: According to LinkedIn he started with Crazy Wanderer Foundation almost 8 years ago. Speculation: How much money was embezzled from charities. Speculation: Any kind of psychological disorder. Speculation: We only have second hand information about his deportation from Germany which suggest that he was sued by his ex-wife for marrying her with the sole purpose of gaining access to Europe. Speculation: What level of higher education he received where. Although his stories vary greatly, he might have obtained a university degree or PhD although it would not be under the name that he currently uses. Speculation: Any level of true affection. It is highly unlikely that he was emotionally invested in any of his relationships as declarations of love overlap timely. However, we cannot know how he feels or thinks- this page focuses on his fraudulent, abusive and manipulative ACTIONS. A lot of people are really angry and hurt, but please let's stick to the facts and share evidence on here so that people can be warned.

In the words of the group administrator, Ira Lemm, the group is a “platform where this man’s victims and targets can connect and inform about his methods to warn others, get closure and bring him to justice“.

In the posts, women have recounted their experience about how they got exploited by Chatterjee. They have shared screenshots of conversations, emails, recordings etc.

Here is an extract from some of the posts:

Hey girls, so I didn't know about this group until a couple of hours ago through the Nomads group. I am utterly shocked to see how many girls are on here and how many girls got scammed by ths freak. Ved Tashi Rupak whatever contacted me a year ago when I was in Nepal with exactly the same story as I see he told other women here. I had several skype calls with him, something he was accompanied by a woman. He almost convinced me to come ot India, until he started telling me that he already loved and that kind of bullshit. All my alarmbells started rining and after some research I found out what kind of person he is. I reported his Facebook accounts, his skype account and his couchsurfing account that I was aware of. I also send emails to the Indian Government to some embassies, mainly the ones from the UK and the Netherlands, Unfortunately without ever getting a reply. And now I noticed that his scams and misusing is still continuing. He hs been doing this for years.

I met Tashi in Varkala in December. I felli nto this trap for a week before my instincts kicked in and told me to not trust this man. Reading through some of the stories these courageous women have shared has made me shudder at teh similarity to my own experience. Tashi told me I was powerful, strong, he saw something in my eyes, he gave me gifts some of which I still have and I will take pictures of when I'm home he told me he wanted to make a documentary of me in Himachal Pradesh where no other tourists go he showed me pictures of his father he told me had 7 adopted children and a school in Kolkata he paid for breakfasts an dinners with him, he took me to that book shop and tried to get me to buy something he offered to pay for things and got really angry and terrible when I declined. He even gave me a strange massage in his digusting tree house which was red flag that got be thinking straight again.

Hi Rebecca I hope you don't mind me messaging you I was also in contact with Tashi and many other of his aliases.
Apart from the Facebook groups, several victims have taken to online travel communities and blogs to share their experiences. In 2016, Alyssa reported a Yoga retreat volunteering scam run by Chatterjee where he offers opportunity to women travellers to tour India and get involved in his Yoga retreat business. As per Alyssa, “he preys on women online…He claims to be Mr Charity and to be dedicated to feeding the starving children….”

Yet another victim, Anabel wrote to Alt News narrating her experience, “My experience was back in November 2015, a friend send me a job offer from a couchsurfing job group for digital nomads. That job was offering a possibility to work on yoga and meditation retreats in India, Thailand, Indonesia, etc with a multicultural group formed by other girls from Australia, UK, Switzerland, etc (after a few time I realized that those people where fake profiles). The project claim to help charities and women empowerment.“. Anabel traveled to India and after an initial tour to a few charities in Kolkata, what followed in this case too was emotional manipulation and financial extortion.

Irene Eilers, who is also part of the Facebook group related in an email to Alt News, “Physically nothing happened to me, but it was a very unsafe and scary environment and he is really crazy. Manipulating all of us, talking to us separately, telling crazy stories that always changed and got crazier. And the money transfers through Europe…” Eilers was uncomfortable with what she saw. She finally contacted the Dutch embassy and they sent her a car which drove her to the embassy and she made a police report as well.

Web of lies

Chatterjee allegedly goes by several names – Ved, Tashi and Karma Vishnu Kranti, to name a few. As reported by travel communities, he is still active on two known fake profiles on Facebook: Shannon Heiderkamm and Tessa Madison. He also has several websites / blogs in different languages that help him to build an online profile and convince the victims that they are dealing with a genuine organisation. Crazy Wanderers Foundation claims to have several chapters around the world, in places like Kolkata, Bali, Israel, etc.

One of Chatterjee’s several websites, called Art of Giving is particularly well designed. It mentions that the organization is a NGO that seeks to unite the underprivileged in Asia with compassionate innovators of the West. It claims to work in the areas of education, women’s empowerment, aid of sexually abused girls and welfare of stray animals.

art of giving website

His LinkedIn profile identifies him as a Director at Crazy Wanderers Foundation since 2006. Before that he claims to have worked as a “Corporate Robot” at “HSBC Private Bank”, which is an obviously fake claim.

In his blog, he identifies himself as Dr. Rupak Chatterjee. Here is an extract about his organization, Crazy Wanderers.

“Crazy Wanderer’s is a backpackers travel community which operates from the 300 years old city of joy “Kolkata” promoting tour plans across the Globe for a better cause i.e for the welfare of underprivileged slum children and old people {which means Traveling for a better cause}…..After all its not all about money but about doing something for people who are deprived of everything in this universe.”

Notice the focus on travelling for a better cause and doing something for the underprivileged. Not surprisingly, he also offers a program called, “Slum Kids Billionaire volunteerism”.

A very suspicious Spanish blogpost dated 2013 projects him as an educated person from a well to do family who rebelled against his father and decided to give up everything to work with abandoned children from the suburbs of Kolkata. It goes on to detail how he is trying to change their destinies and give them a more dignified life.

Crazy Wanderers Foundation is described as a non-profit organization, financed exclusively from the tourist trips he organized with the volunteers, and some selfless contributions. His goal is stated as a desire to “create bonds between his beloved country and the Western world based on three principles that governed his life: spirituality, culture and values”

The blog makes a mention that Chatterjee lost his memory permanently after 16 days in a coma, after a traffic accident that happened because he was heartbroken about his German wife leaving him. The memory loss story seems to be a convenient alibi, if confronted about anything from the past. Notice again how the attempt is play on emotions and build sympathy.

Close brush with the law

In late 2013, Chatterjee was nearly caught and reported by a person called Arindam Chakraborty. In his Facebook post, Chakraborty describes how he got to learn about the scam when Chatterjee stayed in his house for nine months. Here is an account from his Facebook post:

“Day by day my family members noticed that at least 20 hours a day he is in talk with several foreigners (Mostly Girls) and telling all false stories of running a NGO which has nearly 250 orphan girls and many prostitutes, he also spread that he has his NGO in Australia , Indonesia, Russia, USA , Germany & several European countries – Which we know are all false and just fake…. he opened false IDs in the name of 1. Saminta Madison, 2. Nancy Brown , 3. Lucinda Powell , Karen Pooler and every time he first targets foreigner ( Westerners ) Females by sending the same massages of Spirituality and describing about their Indian Director Dr ( Fake ) Rupak Chatterjee”

This was in September 2013, and Chakraborty felt he could not continue to watch him malign India and take advantage of innocent foreigners. So Chakraborty confronted him on 30th September, 2013 and recorded all his statement on video camera. He seized his mobile & laptop and put out a message on the page operated by Chatterjee to warn other travellers. “We are contacting all and earnestly requesting everyone to please inform their local police stations to take actions against him as we are doing here in India. He has also agreed that he made many false Facebook Ids and we made him to write and sign that in Govt of India Registered Stamp paper on 30th September……Kolkata Police and Cyber Crime department is been informed and they will take severe action against him.

Alt News spoke to Chakraborty and learnt that while he obtained the confession and posted a warning in travel communities, he did not carry out his threat of reporting Chatterjee to the police.

Chatterjee’s version

Since Chatterjee’s last known number was unreachable, we were wondering how to reach out to him to get his side of the story. This afternoon, we saw a message pop into our Inbox which was sent via Alt News Contact page and the person claimed to be Rupak Chatterjee. We are not sure how, but he had been informed that Alt News is running a story regarding this issue. We requested him to send his phone number so that we could speak to him and he responded instantly.

During the course of the phone conversation, Chatterjee claimed that it was he who was the victim. He claimed that the women who have been writing against him are somehow related to escort business and drug trade. There was a dispute regarding the same which is why everybody had ganged up against him and that he was completely innocent. He claimed that he’s filed a petition with the DGP in person and had spoken to the authorities. He refused to elaborate as to who were these ‘authorities’. When we asked him as to which state’s DGP had he met, he completely refused to answer this question despite several attempts on our part to evoke a response from him.

We also asked him about the numerous websites he runs and why do the Directors mentioned in all his websites are identical and why do they have names similar to the fake accounts that were contacting the women. He claimed that he had lost access to the website as his email had been hacked and he wasn’t responsible for the content. Following this, Chatterjee stone-walled every question we asked and finally stated that he’d reply only over an official email.

We sent him an email but we did not receive any meaningful response to our questions as Chatterjee continued to digress from the core issue and dodged our questions. Half an hour after our phone coversations, we discovered that both his websites had been pulled down. A copy of both his websites is still available in Google Cache (Tathaasthu and The Art of Giving). The email address that he used to converse with Alt News matches the email address on the ‘Contact’ page of these websites.

What next?

Chatterjee’s last known location is Varkala, Kerala. He is using many aliases and fake profiles and as per reports on travel groups.

Over the last few weeks, Rebecca Tott has successfully mobilised support from other victims and international travel community. She has put together a 57 page document with all the details and is planning to file a formal police complaint against Chatterjee on the grounds of cybercrime, fraud, and financial exploitation. Having been a victim herself, she has taken this step to alert other travellers and bring the case to the notice of Indian authorities to protect the lives of women and vulnerable children that he comes into contact with.

Alt News brings this story with the hope that concerned authorities reach out to Rebecca Tott and other victims who are willing to come forward and recount their ordeals so that no more women tourists have to face similar experience in India.

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