The 41-year-old self-proclaimed NASA scientist, Atul Sharma, who was arrested by the Mumbai police’s special squad on Tuesday night for allegedly cheating a 40-year-old divorcee of Rs25 lakh after promising to marry her, has also duped at least 10 men, by offering them jobs in NASA and business deals.
On Wednesday, the police came across one of these men, Captain Guru Singh, who lives in Kharghar. “Sharma had taken Rs5 lakh from Singh, saying it was for a business deal. We found messages from Singh on Sharma’s cellphone asking him to return the money. We then asked Singh to file a complaint,” said a police official.
Sharma’s phone records revealed he was in touch with at least eight to nine other men, with whom he discussed job prospects. “He claimed he had ‘worked’ in the special forces formed by US presidents George Bush and Barack Obama for research on artificial intelligence and space robotics,” the official said. He would show them morphed photographs of him with Bush and Obama to buttress his claims.
The police said they were getting in touch with the contacts on Sharma’s BlackBerry messenger list to ascertain how many people he had conned.
Police said Sharma was a native of Lucknow. He is an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur and was married with two kids until his wife abandoned him five years ago. “His Lucknow-based family said he had been missing for the last six months. He told his victims he was based in Boston, USA, and made software for NASA, while his family was based in London,” said the official.
Sharma’s cell phone and laptop have a NASA logo, and he told his victims that “this was given by the US President to NASA employees.” He also claimed that he was awarded the ‘Best Scientist Award’ twice, and that his nomination for a Nobel prize had been approved.
“We have registered a case under IPC sections 406 for criminal breach of trust, 419 for cheating by personation, and 420 for cheating. Sharma has been remanded in police custody till April 30 by a magistrate’s court on Wednesday,” said Dilip Rupwate, senior inspector, Oshiwara police station.