Rajiv Sahani was just another Delhi University graduate, teaching at a coaching centre which guaranteed “command over English”. But the 26-year-old wasn’t just parroting American accent to make students master the language in two weeks, he was recruiting trainees for his mega-ATM theft plan.
The plot seemed right out of Oliver Twist – ensnared by the crook Fagin who used to teach children to pick pockets. Except that it wasn’t hatched on the cobbled bylanes of 19th-century London, it was in the heart of south Delhi, a stone’s throw away from the famous Lotus Temple.
Sahani would pick out the brightest students at the centre, lure them to join him and teach them the tricks of tampering with ATM machines to commit thefts --- a skill he had mastered, police officials told HT.
Just like the “Artful Dodger”, Sahani gave his protégés theory classes and practical training on how to freeze an ATM machine for over a minute and then withdraw money using the ATM pin of the person who took out cash before them, officials said. The only difference from
Charles Dickens’ masterpiece was that none of those involved were a minor.
After a few weeks of training in the narrow lanes of Kalkaji, he would assist them on the ‘field’ for the first few visits until they felt confident about carrying out the operation on their own, sources added.
“The gang would target women and senior citizens and stand next to them, pretending to help. When they entered the pin, the men would shove in an oil pin or a microchip inside the keypad, making the display screen blank. They would then ask the people to withdraw from another ATM machine. The moment they left, the men would remove the pin and enter an amount,” police said.
Using the trick, Sahani — unemployed and penniless a year ago — made several lakhs.
He now owns a Honda City and sends thousands of rupees to his family in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur.
“He would pay his men a fixed percentage of what they made. Initially a monthly amount was fixed but as they expanded, he started giving them a cut,” sources said. “The training was such that thefts were committed with precision. It took us over four months to track them down and reach Sahani,” the official added.
Sahani learnt the trick during his brief stint in jail in 2011 after being arrested in a case of theft.
“Another inmate Sahil Khan taught him the tricks to hang an ATM display screen and cheat people. After he became a master, he started recruiting people till he was arrested,” police said.
Unfortunately for this modern-day Fagin, the master ended up being beaten at his own game.