The Visakhapatnam police on Wednesday arrested a 27-year-old engineering dropout and three others for cheating two MLAs in Andhra Pradesh and collecting Rs 35 lakh from them by pretending to be the Personal Assistants (PAs) to Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy and Leader of Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu.
The police said that the accused were identified as Vishnu Murthy, and his three accomplices, 30-year-old Tarun, and Jaya Krishna and Jagadeesh, both aged 24. Investigation officials said that the four accused had made spoof calls to around 15 local and national political leaders.
Speaking to reporters in the coastal city, Visakhapatnam Police Commissioner Mahesh Chandra Laddha said that this case was a first of its kind, adding that Vishnu, who developed an interest in hacking, used a phone spoofing app to commit his crime.
The police said that with the help of the app, when the accused would make phone calls, the receiver would see the phone number of the Chief Minister or his PA on the screen.
â€śOn May 7 and June 6, the gang made calls and managed to collect Rs 25 lakh from former MLA Bandaru Satyanarayana Murthy and Rs 10 lakh from Palasa MLA Appala Raju. Vishnu Murthy would ensure that the victims believe that he was the PA to CM and demand money through WhatsApp messages. The message would include that the CM was busy,â€ť Mahesh Chandra Laddha told reporters.
"The gang also made spoof calls to Visakhapatnam MP MVV Satyanarayana, who sensed that something was fishy and sent 4-5 persons along with cash to the appointed location. They took care to hide themselves and stayed some distance away. The gang came to collect the cash and left without meeting the MPâ€™s men,â€ť the Commissioner was quoted as saying.
The police said that they had seized 28.22 grams of gold, 19.2 grams of silver and five mobile phones, besides Rs 5.8 lakh in cash from Vishnu Murthy and the other accused.