A Tajik high school student who allegedly posed as a member of the ruling family was so convincing that he made off with thousands in bribes in return for presidential favors.
Khushdil Qurbonov, who has a passing resemblance to President Emomali Rahmon's 16-year-old son, Somon, is accused of defrauding several people since 2014.
Tajik officials announced on May 5 that government officials were among the victims, some of whom paid tens of thousands of dollars to Qurbonov.
The teenager's debut on the bribery scene reportedly netted him $50,000 from a Dushanbe resident who was seeking a parcel of land, the state anticorruption agency said on national television.
Qurbonov allegedly convinced his victim that he would use his family's clout and contacts to secure a lucrative plot of property in Dushanbe's Rudaki's district, officials said.
After receiving the bribe, the teenager allegedly told the Dushanbe resident to contact Sabzali Majidov, a government official in charge of land distribution in the capital, to take ownership of the land.
According to police, Qurbonov then proceeded to call Majidov and, claiming to be Somon Emomali, requested that the official grant the land to the alleged victim.
Majidov reportedly did not deliver on the request, but that didn't stop the teenager from continuing with his ruse, according to officials.
Maybe Not Acting Alone
Emboldened by his first major success, he allegedly went on to deceive several others who paid bribes in the belief that they were buying the first family's favor.
The anticorruption agency didn't provide further details.
Authorities believe the teenager wasn't acting alone.
Qurbonov's relative, Jurakhon Kholov, is accused of helping the teenager target potential victims and convincing them that they had indeed established contact with the president's family.
Qurbonov was arrested by the state anticorruption agency, which is run by Rahmon's oldest son, Rustami Emomali.
Unlike some of his siblings who occupy official posts, Somon is rarely seen in public.
But Somon did make headlines in 2012 when he reportedly won a gold medal in an international computer science contest in Romania.
Written by Farangis Najibullah with reports by RFE/RL's Tajik Service and local media.