A serial swindler who was arrested in India earlier this month married 27 women over a 43-year period, a police investigation found. Ramesh Chandra Swain, 65, confessed to having 14 wives when he was detained in the eastern state of Orissa on February 13. Officers suspected there could be more victims “but we had no idea the number would be so high”, Inspector Uma Shankar Dash told reporters in state capital Bhubaneswar. Swain had posed as a health official whose job required him to regularly visit far-flung parts of the country – a charade that not only explained his long absences, but made it seem like he was a respectable government employee. He targeted middle-aged divorcees looking for companionship and, from around 2010 onwards, scoured marriage websites for women in well-paid jobs – homing in on doctors, civil servants, and in one case, a Supreme Court lawyer. For lust and money: when online sexual encounters end in despair and death Divorced or widowed women have little to no social standing in India, regardless of their job title or the size of their pay packet, and will often seek out a man by their side to improve their status. Swain, whose first marriage was in 1979, exploited this stigma for his own financial gain by befriending and marrying such women, asking them for money or asset transfers, and then vanishing. He would say he needed funds for air tickets or to pay for sudden emergencies and promised to repay the money, but never did. Though Swain told police after his arrest that it had been “easy” to con his victims, his final one – a schoolteacher in New Delhi – proved to be his undoing. She became suspicious of her new husband after visiting him in Bhubaneswar last year and finding messages on his phone from other women. Calls to three of them confirmed her worst fears, prompting a police complaint and Swain’s ultimate arrest. Indian fake degree scandal has hundreds questioning qualifications Police investigations uncovered 14 bank accounts, 11 bank cards and five official identity cards linked to the swindler, as well as a phone contact list overflowing with women’s numbers, broken down by their profession or location. Swain’s stepmother and brother, who still live in the village where he grew up, were incredulous when police told them about his career as a con man, local media reported.