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Fuel thief cons country

punjab Updated: Feb 28, 2013 21:56 IST
HT Correspondent

Getting less miles for money? The petrol-pump attendant with remote control might be the culprit.

On Thursday, the Mansa police busted a countrywide scam in which customers were shortchanged on fuel with the help of technology-an electronic chip installed inside the pump that cut off filling at 10% short without any actual change in reading.

Raids all over state

A secret input led the police to Ankur Kumar Verma, a former bowser serviceman from Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh) who is said to have rigged all the pumps. After his arrest, the police alerted their teams in other districts, which brought synchronised raids on many fuel stations to detect the chips. "Ankur had fitted each micro circuit for Rs 50,000," said senior superintendent of police Narinder Bhargav said, "He learnt the technique while working as service engineer at Larson and Tubro."

In spite of being less educated, Ankur grasped all knowledge about the filling machine and quit L&T "to get into the business of swindling". "We raided more than 15 filling stations where he said he had fitted the micro devices," said SSP Bhargav. "It turned out to be a chip inside the machine that nicked 10% fuel from every customer before it went into the tank."

Four suspects in this swindle are under arrest and the chips recovered from two filling stations in Mansa district, and one each in Muktsar, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ferozepur, and Barnala. Ankur said he had brought the method to the state from Mumbai.

Fortune made

Vinodpal of Budhlada, one of the suspects on the run, earlier was salesman at a filling station. Within a year, he manage to buy own filling station in his town. The police are still calculating the value of his immense property that he made in just six months of opening his venture.

Besides Ankur Verma, salesman Sunil Kumar, and Sameer Kumar and Akilesh Kumar of Uttar Pradesh are under arrest under Section 3 (7) (suspicious object in vehicle or machine) of the Essential Commodities Act of 1955 and Section 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). A fuel station in Budhlada and two in Kot Dharmu have been sealed and chip from the pumps over there recovered. The chip recovered from Budhlada was of advanced type and it is under examination.

Remote controlled

"We installed the device either with the consent of the station owner concerned or in connivance with the salesmen," said Ankur Verma. "We operated it with a remote control to guide the filler. The deduction setting was 2%, 5%, or 10%. Vinodpal's method was even more advanced; he activated the auto-cut chip by entering a code before supply."

The police have gathered that the suspect tampered with 30 machines in Punjab and another 150 across the country. Chips have been installed in Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and other many other states. A number of salesmen involved received no wages from the filling-station owners concerned and were paid only the commission out of this swindle.

Sili-con technique

1) An electronic auto-cut chip was fitted in the filling machines with the connivance of either the station owner or employees
2) Button A on a remote control was pressed to give the customer full quantity of fuel, while buttons B and C were pressed to steal. An attendant would enter the code to activate the chip before the fuel went into tank
3) The chip was installed in only one of the machines at every rigged station
4) At night, the team would extract the stolen fuel from the bowsers
5) Where salesmen connived in this scam, the filling-station owners were unaware of the pilferage

Rigged: 30 pumps in Punjab; 150 pumps in outside states

2 Mansa, 1 Muktsar, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ferozepur, Barnala