Accused Pooja BhaleraoAccused Pooja Bhalerao

One woman appears to have taken the entire Local Arms Unit of the Mumbai Police for a ride after it was revealed that she stole the rewards money meant for over 500 top performing officers. The accused, Pooja Bhalerao, who works as a senior clerk with the police department, was responsible for dispensing the cash rewards when she was posted at Naigaon police headquarters between 2012 and 2016. Bhalerao is said to have accumulated over R1.39 lakh during her tenure, by transferring reward sums into her own account.

The con came to light on September 9, when a constable approached Commissioner of Police Dattatray Padsalgikar, claiming that his cash reward had not been deposited into his account. The CP asked him to file a complaint with the Bhoiwada police station, under whose jurisdiction the Naigaon police falls. The case was later transferred to the Economic Offences Wing (EOW).

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Where did the money go?
Officials within the Local Arms Unit receive cash rewards for a range of accomplishments, including good detection, effective bandobast duty, and performance in competitive sports, among others. The cash rewards can range from R100 to R15,000.

Based on the rewards, a list is prepared and sent to the additional commissioner of police for approval. The list is then sent to the senior clerk stationed at the Naigaon headquarters of the police, who then attaches the bank account details of the officials, and sends it to the pay and accounts department in Bandra. This department then transfers the money into the said police official's bank account.

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According to a source, Bhalerao would list her own account number instead of that of the officers'. "She would add her account number against different officer's names each time to avoid raising suspicion," the official said.

Bhalerao continued the exercise for nearly four years, and even managed to evade suspicion during this time, for want of any complaints against her. The Bhoiwada police registered an FIR against Bhalerao under Sections 406, 420, 465 of the IPC for theft and cheating, this morning.

Speaking to mid-day, senior police inspector D Patil, Bhoiwada police, confirmed that a senior clerk had been booked for stealing cash rewards and that the EOW was investigating the case further.

CP Dattatray Padsalgikar ordered an EOW inquiry in the case
CP Dattatray Padsalgikar ordered an EOW inquiry in the case

Serious offence
Sources said that the stolen booty is also expected to run into lakhs. One of the police officers, on condition of anonymity, said, "Usually, we have to follow-up with the clerk over two to three months, before the money is finally deposited in our accounts." He hinted that it's one of the reasons, why many officers may have not bothered to keep tabs on the cash rewards due to them.