Mumbai: Gang lowers consumers' meter readings for bribes

The gang is thought to have caused losses in crores to the MSEB by tampering with meter readings in exchange for bribes; MSEB officials suspected the scam when the bill collections dropped drastically

Unravelling a major power scam, the Mulund police arrested ten people for tampering with citizens’ electric meter readings in exchange for bribes. The accused would change consumers’ meter readings for lower electric bills, causing losses in crores for the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB).

Raju Iyer and nine other accused tampered with meter readings to lower consumers’ electric bills
Raju Iyer and nine other accused tampered with meter readings to lower consumers’ electric bills

According to the police, the ten persons are employees of Vision InfoTech and Ruturaj Enterprises, private agencies hired by the state electricity regulator. They were led by the mastermind, identified as Raju Iyer, who was arrested from his Thane residence on Monday.

The other nine accused are Ravindra Borade, Mayur Varang, Abhimanyu Gondhade, Nazir Shaikh, Vikas Mahadik, Eknath Thongare, Bhushan Kapse, Ashok Mote and Vijay Padvaje. “MSEB had hired two agencies to get the electric meter readings of around 1.7 lakh MSEB consumers in Mulund (West).

These employees were hired to click photographs of the meters and the send the same to the MSEB, which then prepared bills based on the readings,” said Police Inspector Prakash Mansukh from Mulund police station, adding that the two agencies had been commissioned a year ago.

Modus operandi
The accused would approach consumers, offering to lower their meter readings for Rs200-Rs 300. “The gang took photographs of the meters and then altered the pictures on their computers. The edited photographs with lower meter readings were then forwarded to the MSEB. Though the agencies were hired a year ago, the fraud began only four months back,” Mansukh explained.

Investigations
The police said that about a week ago, MSEB officials realised that there was a drastic reduction in the bill collections since the last four months. A team was formed to examine the issue and they found a remarkable difference in the meter readings of consumers. The officials then approached the Mulund police station seeking investigations into the matter.

Charges
Cops put the entire staff of Vision InfoTech and Ruturaj Enterprises under scrutiny, and following sustained interrogations, the accused confessed to the crime and were arrested last week. They were booked under Sections 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property, 465 (forgery), 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (fraudulently using as genuine a forged document or electronic record) and 34 (act done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.

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