The Matunga police late on Monday arrested a 50-year-old diamond merchant for allegedly stealing from senior citizens by posing as their sons’ distant friend.
The accused, Sunil Pujara, was tracked down by the police while investigators were trying to crack the murder of 78-year-old Manjula Vora on June 6.
With no lead in Vora’s murder and the accused still absconding, the police began to look into cases where senior citizens have been victims in the jurisdiction of Matunga police.
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An officer privy to the investigation said in the last six months, there have been four undetected thefts in Matunga and one in Wadala, where the modus operandi appears to be the same.
“Pujara hails from Rajkot in Gujarat and targeted buildings with members of the Gujarati community. In these five theft cases, Pujara would strike a conversation with the watchman and extract information about senior citizen’s who resided alone with their sons overseas,” said the officer.
According to B M Kakad, senior police inspector with Matunga police, Pujara would then move to the residence of the senior citizens claiming to be a distant friend of their son.
“Pujara would tell the elderly that he has recently shifted to Mumbai from the United States and would need to borrow gold items in order to perform a puja, and that he would return these later. In one case, he even borrowed American dollars,” Kakad added.
Police said Pujara was caught on a CCTV camera of a building and his picture was circulated in Matunga.
“We had sent teams to look for Pujara, and on Monday, Pujara was found lurking near another Gujarati society by a beat marshall. He was taken to Matunga police, where he was later arrested on charges of cheating and theft,” said an investigator.
Police said they recovered 90 grams gold along with 400 US dollars, total amounting around Rs 3.8 lakh.
Preliminary investigations revealed that Pujara lived in Mumbai for the last six months in a Juhu-based 5-star hotel with a tariff of Rs 14,000 per night.
Pujara is believed to have used the stolen money in casinos in Goa.