The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) registered a case of identity theft and arrested a visa and travel agent residing in Santacruz after he was allegedly found spoofing mobile phone numbers of unsuspecting persons to threaten politicians.
Mohammed Mufeez Shahbandri (41) is a Bhatkal native and a former business partner of Dawood Ibrahims Dubai-based nephew Sohail Kaskar. He has been booked under several sections of the Information Technology Act and the Indian Penal Code for hacking,identity theft and issuing threats. He was produced before a court and has been remanded in ATS custody till April 9.
Educated in a convent school,Shahbandri had shifted to Santacruz soon after he left Dubai after a business partnership with Sohail,son of Dawoods brother Noora Kaskar turned sour after a dispute,said an ATS official. He started a travel agency in Bandra dealing with visa and passport documentation. Shahbandri soon made enemies after he defaulted on repayment of loans and also due to business rivalries,according to the ATS official.
When his business rivals began sending goons to recover loans,he noted down their mobile numbers. Using a software,he then allegedly spoofed the numbers to threaten state politicians,the official said. Shahbandri would allegedly manipulate multiple hops,such as servers based in foreign countries,so that the threatening calls appeared to originate from the numbers he had spoofed.
He resorted to spoofing to ensure that the police would go after them and he would not have to deal with their threats, said the official,explaining how the politicians would always have the spoofed number on their mobile phone screens and how the police would file a case against unsuspecting persons using those numbers.
Since February 2011,at least a dozen politicians received such threatening calls,with at least seven lodging complaints with the ATS. Shahbandri allegedly told the ATS that he started making the calls in February 2011,with some made in November 2011 and during Ramzan. He usually got the numbers of politicians from their party websites,according to the ATS.
While the police never managed to reach Shahbandri in the past,they kept a watch on,and even booked,some of those whose numbers were spoofed by him. Even the call records of the politicians would show a number from these unsuspecting persons,while their outgoing calls didnt show a corresponding call to the politicians.
While all the calls were made to evade goons and rivals,the last spoofing Shahbandri executed was to help a friend whose wife was having an extra-marital affair,said an official. This was his last spoofing. He made a call to a politician spoofing the caller identity of the man who was allegedly having an affair.
Investigation have also shown that Shahbandri was booked for a case of cheating by the Goa Crime Branch in February 2012. The ATS,meanwhile,seized some cyberware,a laptop,and a hard drive from his house,along with a pen drive and three mobile phones. The cyberware is believed to have the software that Shahbandri allegedly used for spoofing.