Conmen can spot an opportunity to cheat people anywhere. As the Mumbai University exam scam continues to throw up more names of students and officials who might be guilty, two crooks jumped on the chance to make easy money by extorting money from a former engineering student linked to the racket. What's more, one of the crooks is a former cop who was sacked after he was found guilty in six cases of housebreaking.
On Monday, the Bhandup police arrested the fraudsters - former constable Prafull Balkrishna Bhingarde (38) and his accomplice, Nilesh Atmaram Satam (38). They were caught red-handed extorting money from a former MU student Ajit (name changed). Ajit had completed a BE course from the university in 2004 and was aware of the exam racket at the Kalina campus. Ajit’s friend knew that he was in touch with one of the 127 students currently being probed in the scam, and he passed on this information to the two accused, who decided to use it to their advantage.
Bhingarde and Satam pretended to be officers from the Bhandup police and threatened to arrest Ajit unless he coughed up R5 lakh. He agreed to pay them R1.5 lakh. “The two accused, along with a woman, went to the complainant's Airoli residence and posed as Bhandup police. They told the complainant that his name had cropped up during the investigation. They also showed him a fake document which had the names of the accused and the senior inspector of Bhandup police station,” said a police officer.
The conmen managed to collect Rs 80,000 without arousing suspicion, but Ajit smelt a rat after he was contacted by one of the students implicated in the exam scam. The student told him that the police had merely recorded their statements but had not arrested any students. Ajit realised that he had been duped.
He lodged an FIR against the crooks and they were arrested on Monday, after the police laid a trap. The Bhandup police - led by Sub-Inspector Shiv Bhosale under the guidance of Senior Inspector Shripad Kale - recovered Rs 10,000 from the accused and discovered Bhingarde was actually a Thane constable in the past, until he was dismissed from service in 2011. Satam is a real estate agent. Both were booked under IPC for impersonating a public servant, extortion and cheating. A local court remanded them in police custody till June 10. Two more people will be arrested soon.