The alertness of city-based travel agent helped officials of the Deccan Gymkhana police station arrest a serial conman who used to hire vehicles and steal them.
The police said the accused, Tushar Suryabhan Nagarkar, made the mistake of calling up a travel agent again after having duped him once and was caught.
The police said Nagarkar had first tried to steal a car hired from the agent, but when he failed to do so he quietly slipped away without paying for it. Then he called the agent again to hire another car, but the agent recognised his voice and set a trap.
According to the police, Nagarkar was a serial car thief who would ask the driver of a hired vehicle to wait somewhere and drive away with the vehicle. They said Nagarkar would abandon the vehicle after using it and then look for a new prey.
After Nagarkar was brought to them, the police realised he was the same person they had been looking for since October after he had driven away in a car belonging to a Mumbai-based travel agent.
On October 16, Nagarkar was booked for cheating a Mumbai-based travel agency owner and driver, Anand Kadam (36), in a similar fashion.
The police said Nagarkar had driven away in Kadam’s Tata Indigo after asking to wait inside a bar on JM Road. The incident was reported in MiD DAY on October 17 (‘Man asks driver to wait in restaurant, steals hired vehicle’).
After realising he had been conned, Kadam lodged a complaint against Nagarkar, who had hired the car to go to Kolhapur. According to the complaint, Nagarkar had stolen the car while pretending to bring some documents from the vehicle, which was parked outside the bar on JM Road.
The vehicle was found abandoned at a secluded spot in Hinjewadi after two days, but the car tape was missing and the brakes were also out of order. The case against Nagarkar was registered at the Deccan Gymkhana police station.
“After abandoning the car, the suspect went to a nearby dhaba, consumed alcohol, had dinner and slept inside the car for the whole night,” Police Inspector Manohar Joshi of the Deccan Gymkhana police station said. “In the morning, he approached the owner of the dhaba, Rajendra Desai, and told him that his car had developed some problem and requested him to lend him his Bullet bike in order to bring a mechanic. He also told him that he did not have money as there was no ATM nearby and requested him to give him Rs 100.”
Desai thought Nagarkar had a genuine problem and gave him his bike keys and the Rs 100, but Nagarkar never returned. After waiting for several hours, Desai approached the Hinjewadi police station and lodged a case against him.
Inspector Joshi said that on Thursday Nagarkar decided to dupe another travel agent, Kothrud-based Cholan Mudaliar (26), and called him on his telephone number posing as a customer who wanted to go to Kolhapur and expressed his desire to hire an Innova.
“He asked for the car to be brought to Deccan Gymkhana and told the driver that he would give the money to him after returning from Kolhapur,” Joshi said. “Nagarkar asked the driver to take care of the toll fees and fuel.”
On Friday, the suspect returned to the city in the Innova car and asked the driver to take the car to JM Road, where he asked the driver to bring a cigarette from a nearby shop. As the driver pulled out the keys before going to fetch the cigarette, Nagarkar’s plan to run away with the car did not materialise.
“When the driver asked him for the money, which was Rs 7,000, he asked him to wait in the car and told him he would bring the money from an ATM,” Joshi said. “Nagarkar then absconded.”
Joshi said that after going away, Nagarkar by mistake called up Mudaliar on his number and this time told him that he wanted to hire a Tavera. Mudaliar, who had already come to know about the non-payment from his Innova driver, identified Nagarkar’s voice and decided to catch the cheat and pretended to send the car to Karve Road.
“As per their plan, both Mudaliar and his driver reached Karve Nagar and called up Nagarkar, and the moment he came forward, the driver identified him,” Police Naik Mahesh Nimbalkar said. “Later he was nabbed and handed over to us.” During interrogation, the police came to know that Nagarkar was the very person they had been looking for in the case of theft of Kadam’s car and arrested him.
The police said that Nagarkar had duped several travel agents in the city and Mumbai in the past and had even been to jail a few years ago in a similar case. Nimbalkar said Nagarkar used to hire a car and promise to give the money at the end of the trip, go to various places with the driver and, at an opportune moment, drive away with the vehicle. He said that after stealing a vehicle, Nagarkar would take passengers for money. “In order to earn money after stealing a car, he used to take passengers in the car and used to take fare from them,” Nimbalkar said.
Disowned by parents
The police said the parents of the accused told them that they had disowned their son. The parents in 2009 published a declaration in a Marathi daily that they did not have any relation with their son and they would not be responsible if anybody was cheated by him.