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Oil heir loses $6m in 'CIA-Opus-Dei' malware murder scam

Pianoman got played for six years

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A pair of US conmen managed to swindle $6m from a jazz pianist through one of the strangest virus-related blackmail scams imaginable.

The odd tale began after the great-grandson of an oil industry tycoon, jazz pianist Roger Davidson, brought his PC in for repair back in August 2004, believing it to be virus-laden. Computer repairman Vickram Bedi, 36, from Chappaqua, New York, first stung Davidson for inflated data retrieval costs and charges - also telling him his machine had infected others in the repair shop.

Bedi and his girlfriend Helga Invarsdottir, 39, then cooked up a far more ambitious and implausible scam. The duo teamed up to claim they had discovered evidence that Davidson's life was in danger while disinfecting Davidson's machine.

Invarsdottir, posing as a CIA agent, claimed a Polish priest affiliated with Opus Dei had put out a contract on Davidson, a bizarre idea that would stretch credulity even in a Dan Brown novel. She subsequently tricked the gullible Davidson, 58, into handing over $160,000 a month in "protection money", paid through regular payments to Bedi's Mount Kisco, New York store.

The scheme ran for a scarcely believable six years before it unravelled - we suspect after a relative of Davidson got wind of the scam - and the authorities were called in to investigate. Bedi and Invarsdottir were subsequently arrested last week, just as they were preparing to leave for Iceland.

The New York Times has more on the bizarre tale here. Net security firm Sophos, which brought the odd episode to our attention, notes that the scam illustrates how conmen can use lack of knowledge about computers to scam the unwary - a reason why the more internet savvy need to keep an eye out for their vulnerable (possibly elderly) relatives. ®

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