Man used 'missing' ads to extort desperate kin
The 37-year-old, once a vegetable vendor, would scour newspapers for ads on missing people, call their relatives, claim to have the person in his custody, and ask for ransom
Desperate to make a quick buck, a 37-year-old man decided to cash in on the desperation of others, by posing as a kidnapper. According to the Gamdevi police, he would look out for notices about missing persons, call their kin, and reveal himself as the abductor, to extort them for ransom.
Vipul Chandulal Chavan’s luck ran out when the father of a missing 17-year-old boy, who he was trying to extort, informed the police, which led to his arrest on Saturday. Bhavesh Makwana (17), a student of Bhavan’s College who lives in Hamilton Building in Mazgaon, Byculla, went missing on February 18. Bhavesh’s father Shailesh is a professional photographer.
“The boy had gone to Bhavan’s College to pick up his hall ticket on February 18 for his HSC exams but because he was late in picking up the ticket, he had to pay a fine. Afraid that his parents would scold him, Bhavesh broke his SIM card in front of a friend, and then fled,” said Pradeep Lonandkar, senior police inspector of Gamdevi police station.
Bhavesh’s father Shailesh launched a search for his missing boy. “With the help of some reporters, I managed to get a small article published about my missing son, which carried my cell phone number,” said Shailesh. Not one to miss an opportunity, the accused Chavan called Shailesh and told him that he had kidnapped Bhavesh. He asked for Rs 3 lakh as ransom.
“At first, I was asked to take the money to a temple near Khodiyar Mata Temple, Andheri (East) but when we checked the address we realised that it did not exist. Then I got another call, being asked to take the money to Khodiyar Mata Temple near Naigoan (East) and keep it behind the temple,” said Shailesh.
On Saturday, Shailesh, accompanied by Gamdevi police personnel in civilian clothes, went and kept the money behind the temple. Around 1.30 pm, Chavan came to pick up the money, only to be nabbed. “Chavan, who is a resident Rajkot, told us during his interrogation that he was a vegetable vendor who had incurred heavy losses. Having spent all his savings in Mumbai, he couldn’t make it back to his village. Stranded in the city, he thought of this ruse to get some money,” said Lonandkar.
The police have also learnt that Chavan had read similar articles and advertisements in newspapers and had called the kin of other victims, telling them that their missing relative was with him, and would be returned to them if they paid a ransom. As soon as they paid the money, he would flee. “This is the modus operandi revealed by him, but we are in the process of verifying it, especially since we are still to find Bhavesh. Since he broke his SIM card, it has become difficult to trace him,” said Lonandkar.