New York: The secret cult Opus Dei in Dan Brown`s epic novel "The Da Vinci Code" was invoked by an Indian-origin computer repairman in the US to defraud a Latin Grammy-winning pianist and oil-family heir to the tune of $20 million.
Vickram Bedi, 36, and his girlfriend Helga Invarsdottir, 39, of small town of Chappaqua in New York State were arrested last week and have been charged with grand larceny for duping Grammy-winning pianist and jazz composer Roger Davidson.
Their scam began in 2004 when Davidson took his virus-infected laptop computer to Bedi`s computer shop at Mount Kisco in Westchester County in New York State.
Soon Bedi and his girlfriend came to know that their high-profile client is actually the great grandson of the founder of Schlumberger oil company in Houston which reported revenue of $23 billion last year, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
When Davidson asked Bedi to remove the virus from his laptop, the Indian American began the game of brainwashing by telling Davidson that his computer had actually been attacked with a virus so strong that it even damaged Bedi`s Datalink`s computers, the paper quoted the prosecutors as saying.
Bedi tricked Davidson into believing that he had tracked the virus to a remote village in Honduras and that Bedi`s uncle, purportedly an officer in the Indian military, had travelled in a military aircraft to Honduras and retrieved the suspicious hard drive, the journal said.
Then Bedi told Davidson that his uncle had also uncovered an assassination plot against him (Davidson) by Polish priests linked to the murderous cult Opus Dei - made famous by Dan Brown in his novel "The Da Vinci Code".
After charging thousands of dollars from Davidson to secure his computer, Bedi and his girlfriend went on to charge about $160,000 per month for providing 24-hour bogus protection for Davidson and his family, the journal quoted the police as saying.
Police found $6 million in Bedi`s bank account and $1.6 million in his girlfriend`s account. They also seized several cars, commercial properties and $150,000 in cash hidden under Bedi`s bed.
"They did it very systematically and infiltrated every aspect of his life. It was almost a brainwashing technique," the area police chief said.
The scam came to light when the couple were investigated in connection with another criminal complaint against them.
"The systematic method with which they continued the larceny over a period of more than six years is nothing short of heartless," the report quoted Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore as saying.
Bedi and his girlfriend are being held on a $3 million bail.