You could be forgiven for mistaking Nilesh Chougale, 30, to be just another Puneite who comes regularly to Mumbai for work. The dapper Chougale drove a Ford Ikon, preferred corporate wear and lived in a two-bedroom apartment. But ‘work’ for him was breaking into houses and cleaning them out.
Booty in hand, Chougale would speed back to Pune.
He never aroused any suspicions because, as Police Inspector S Marathe said: “He was always well dressed. If you put him in the midst of white-collar workers, you couldn’t tell that he was different.”
Police said he was involved in more than 45 thefts in the city and some in Pune. He has been a thief for 21 years and in and out of jail, the police added.
Last week, his luck ran out again. A woman, whose Malad house he had burgled in the third week of March, described him to the police. The police later got a tip-off about Chougale’s whereabouts and arrested him outside the Sessions Court near Fort.
Chougale, who preferred operating in broad daylight, would dress smartly to gain entry into the building he had chosen. He would go to the top floor and ring the bell of each flat. He would prise open the door at which he received no response and clean out the apartment.