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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Billionaire's Cellmate Held in Hospital Con

City Crime Statistics
Jan. 17 – 22
Theft (total)539226
Apartment burglaries509
Car theft134
For the Record
Car accidents27
    a) killed8
    b) injured150
Missing persons3
Bodies discovered77
*Police said city crime statistics for Jan. 23 were missing due to technical problems.
Source: Moscow police

A convicted fraudster who made headlines last year by claiming he shared a cell with Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been arrested on suspicion of feigning illnesses to defraud unsuspecting patients and doctors out of thousands of dollars.

Police investigators arrested Pyotr Shchedrov, 59, on Jan. 12 outside City Hospital No. 24, near the Tsvetnoi Bulvar metro station in central Moscow, after receiving a tip that he was planning a scam, police spokesman Alexei Bakhromeyev said Tuesday.

Police began receiving information last June that a scam artist was calling ambulances complaining of hypertension. Once hospitalized, the man claimed to be a co-founder of the fictitious Moscow Commodities Exchange and offered to invest the savings of other patients and the doctors, Bakhromeyev said.

After earning their trust, the man would take would-be investors to a building on Arkhangelsky Pereulok where he said he worked and then disappear out a back entrance with their money.

"He was going from hospital to hospital doing this," Bakhromeyev said.

He said Shchedrov had admitted to scamming two people out of a total of $10,000 during his hospital stints. Police are looking for other victims.

Shchedrov has been charged with two counts of fraud. If convicted, he faces up to six years in prison.

Shchedrov has been convicted of fraud four times before and has spent a total of 18 years in prison, police said. He was first sent to prison in 1977.

His latest arrest came a year after he was released from prison, and although small-time scam artists rarely create headlines, he made the most of his year of freedom. He revealed in an interview with the Sobesednik newspaper in July that he had shared a cell with Khodorkovsky and that the Yukos billionaire, among other things, threw away his laundry rather than having it washed by prison staff, bought food for the other two inmates in his cell and was very sociable.

Shchedrov told Ekho Moskvy radio that he had spent time in Khodorkovsky's cell at the Matrosskaya Tishina prison from late June to mid-September 2004.

When asked during the live interview how he ended up in the same cell as Khodorkovsky, Shchedrov said: "Mikhail Borisovich and I violated the same article in the Criminal Code: 159. But the plot was a little different, a little simpler: abuse of trust and failure to return the money."

Sobesednik reporter Rimma Akhmirova said she was surprised to hear that Shchedrov was in trouble with the law again.

"When he contacted us, he said he was finished with his life of crime and that he wanted to lead a normal life," Akhmirova said by telephone. "But he had problems getting proper registration [for a place to live] and, obviously, didn't properly integrate back into society."