A 28-year-old tout was arrested by the Tirumala police on Sunday for allegedly cheating devotees and fleecing them under the pretext of booking ‘darshan’ tickets for the Lord Venkateswara Temple in Andhra Pradesh.
The police said that the accused would convince devotees to deposit money in his account for ensuring the darshan and start avoiding their calls after this. One of the devotees filed a complaint, following which he was arrested from Tenali.
The accused was identified as 28-year-old Karthik and authorities said that he had been running his racket since 2017, even establishing connections with local travel agencies and some staff members of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which manages the affairs of the famous temple.
Speaking to reporters, Tirumala II town Circle Inspector Y Venkateswarlu said, “The TTD’s Vigilance Inspector received a complaint from a devotee who hailed from Telangana’s Adilabad. He complained that the accused promised him tickets and cheated him and gave us the account number in which he deposited the money.”
Following this, the Vigilance Inspector approached the police and filed a complaint and a case was registered.
“As part of investigation, we tracked the account number and found that it belonged a bank account in Tirupati. However, the accused is not a native of this area. Searches were conducted at Guntur, Rajahmundry and Tenali. Recently, we tracked his movements in Eluru as well,” CI Venkateswarlu said.
“He collects phone numbers of pilgrims and devotees and calls them and convinces them that he will ensure their darshan at the temple, before asking them to deposit Rs 5,000 or Rs 10,000 in his account. He had been doing this for more than two years,” he added.
The police is investigating the case and said that it was also looking into the matter to see if there were more touts or TTD staff involved. Further details are expected to be revealed later.
The temple is the richest in the world as just earlier this week, TTD officials said that they had pure gold reserves of over 9,000 kg. Believed to have been constructed over a period starting from 300 AD, the temple attracts 50,000 to one lakh pilgrims every day.