A 42-year-old man from Shahad near Kalyan has been apprehended by the police for allegedly stealing valuable items from auto-rickshaw drivers after offering them spiked cold drinks.
The incident came to light in June when the Navghar police received a complaint from a 63-year-old Airoli-based auto driver named Narayan Linge. On June 7, Linge was waiting at a rickshaw stand at Airoli Sector 13 when two men entered his auto and requested a ride to Mulund.
Their destination was Mhada Colony in Mulund East. Upon reaching an area in the eastern part of Mulund, one of the men asked Linge to pull over as they were thirsty. They obtained a bottle of cold drink and, after consuming some, offered some to Linge as a kind gesture. Unaware of what would transpire, Linge accepted the drink.
The next thing Linge knew, he woke up to discover that all his valuables, including a gold chain, a gold ring, his phone, and Rs. 4,000 in cash, were missing. He promptly reported the incident to the Navghar police, providing them with a detailed account. A case was registered, and an investigative team was formed.
Initially, the police did not discern a pattern in the crimes until September, when the Mulund police station received another complaint involving the same modus operandi used against Linge. The complainant, an auto driver, was also offered a similar drink before the theft. Recognizing the pattern, Navghar and Mulund police initiated a joint investigation, receiving confidential tips about the first suspect, identified as Nitin Ashok Surve.
Surve was apprehended by the police, and during questioning, he disclosed that he and his friend from Gujarat, referred to as "bhai," conducted reconnaissance on their potential victims before executing their scheme. Utilizing the safety of the auto as a concealed hideout, they targeted auto drivers who wore significant amounts of jewelry and posed as passengers. Police suspect that they may have carried out similar crimes with the same modus operandi in other locations as well. The investigation is ongoing, and efforts are underway to locate and apprehend the second suspect, the "bhai," who is believed to be hiding in Gujarat.
Both suspects have been charged under sections 328 (administering stupefying drugs with intent to commit an offense), 379 (theft), and 34 (common intent) of the Indian Penal Code. Surve is presently in police custody.