How a petrol pump technician used microchips for nation-wide fraud
Officials said that the accused cut supply by 60ml in one litre, which would provide a profit of Rs15-Rs 20 lakh per month to owners of pumps that witnessed heavy rush. Owners of pumps where customers were less made around Rs5-Rs7 lakh per month.noida Updated: May 23, 2017 11:39 IST
The idea to tamper with oil flow at petrol stations by installing an electronic chip, which results in less quantity of fuel being dispensed, was initiated by a technician who allegedly worked for more than 15 years at a filling station of Indian Oil Corporation in Lucknow.
Officials of the Special Task Force (STF) of Uttar Pradesh nabbed the accused, Ravinder, 40, and 23 others last month.
Officials said that the accused cut supply by 60ml in one litre, which would provide a profit of Rs15-Rs 20 lakh per month to owners of pumps that witnessed heavy rush. Owners of pumps with less customers made around Rs 5-Rs 7 lakh per month.
The accused was well versed with the electronics involved in oil dispensing machines. Officials said that he was tasked with fixing a snag in one such machine at the filling station, which resulted in the idea. He is a resident of Barabanki.
There are three main units in the machine — pulse unit, central unit and dispensing unit — used in oil supply. The chips would be installed in the pulse unit to slow down the supply of fuel.
A remote sensor was also used to send signals to the pulse unit and the dispensing unit. The chip would reduce the supply and the dispenser would show a false reading. The entire exercise would bypass the role of the central unit that regulates the oil supply.
According to the police, Ravinder was initially able to procure the chip but was unable to install it.
Sources in the STF said, “The seal on devices inside dispensing machines and mathematical calculation to control the supply were his obstacles. He befriended an engineer of Midco Company that deals with fuel dispensing equipment and the duo executed the plan together. It was started from the same filling station where he was working as a technician. Over a period of time, both of them spread their network across the state.”
STF sources said that they trained others for installing the chips and the demand for the chips, which has a specific shape, started rising. He became an expert and started a nexus of technicians. In his chain, a technician would charge Rs 7,000 for installation and Rs 3,000 for procuring the chip.
Raj Kumar Mishra, deputy superintendent of police, Noida-STF, who was conducting raids in Gautam Budh Nagar district with other officials said, “Since he started minting money, he went on to share this idea with people not only in UP but in other states as well. In fact, people in Bihar were working for him and his network was spread up to Mumbai, from where chips were sourced and later installed in fuel dispensers.”
Ravinder came to spotlight a month ago when the STF came to know about the oil theft and arrested him and 23 accomplices.
The STF continued with raids and found that most filling stations in Muzaffarnagar were using these electronic chips. In one of the raid raids, a suspect told the police that he had procured the chips through courier from Purnia district of Bihar. The STF then went to Purnia and arrested an accused. The STF team found oil dispensing machines at his residence. They said that his job was to receive the chips sourced from Mumbai and supply them in UP.
Officials said the man based in Purnia was working in close association with Ravinder and was trained to install the chips. Sources said that these chips had to be replaced every two months.
Ravinder ran his operations for six years in the state before his arrest in April. He had become popular in the trade and was expanding his network to other states as well.
Mishra said that when raids were being conducted, people got to know and started removing the chips from the pulse unit, which is a part of the dispenser. These chips are fixed with a solder and on removal, leave a mark that shows that the device has been tampered with.
Meanwhile, the Allahabad high court on Monday lauded the role of the STF for breaking the oil nexus. In its order, it said that the role of weight and measurement department is suspicious, with regard to the installation of electronic devices in machines. The court has said that seals are installed by the weights and measures department and without tampering with these, it would not have been possible to tamper with the fuel supply.