Twenty-eight-year-old Raju Masaram wanted to make a quick buck to allegedly repay loans his father, a farmer from Wardha in Vidarbha, had accrued.
The class 12 dropout ran out of luck when the Mumbai Crime Branch arrested him in September for trying to extort money from a doctor.
The Anti-Extortion Cell arrested at Raju at Wardha, which has seen the most
farmers' suicides in the cotton belt, on September 13. Raju is in Arthur Road jail and does not have a lawyer.
Police sources said he does not want his parents and wife to know about his arrest.
Sources in the AEC said Raju’s father, Shamrao, had borrowed Rs 70,000 for his daughter’s wedding from a moneylender in his village, Sindhi Meghe, four years ago.
Shamrao, who owns little land, works as farm labour while his wife, Chandralekha, works as a domestic help.
He repaid Rs 42,000 and was struggling to pay the rest.
Police sources said Raju, who is unemployed, told the police he wanted to do something about his father’s debts when he came across news reports about the Ravi Pujari gang’s extortion business in Mumbai.
“He decided to extort money by masquerading as Pujari’s man,” said an officer from the AEC, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Raju picked his victims from a booklet of the Shiridi Saibaba Sansthan.
“He chose three reputed surgeons who are the trustees of the temple. One of them is a cardiologist attached to Bombay Hospital. The other two are from Nagpur and Delhi,” the officer said.
Raju began sending the doctors threatening text messages from his mobile phone and demanded money. “He demanded Rs 25 lakh from the Mumbai-based doctor,” the officer said.
He asked the doctor to deposit the money in his bank account.
When the doctor approached the AEC, it advised him to deposit Rs 20,000 in Raju’s account. When Raju visited the bank’s Wardha branch to withdraw the money, the police arrested him.
Police sources said Raju claimed he had considered committing suicide thrice in the past. Additional commissioner of police (crime) Deven Bharati said, “Whatever the reason, he committed a crime because greed took over.”