Rent-a-car scam busted; 22 vehicles seized across state

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Kottayam: Police have busted a major rent-a-car scam and seized 22 vehicles from the fraudsters who siphon off the money by pledging high-end cars taken on rent. The vehicles were seized from different parts of the state.

The police have arrested KS alias K S Arun hailing from Vakathanam, Justin Varghese from Poovanthuruthu, Ahamed Irfanul Farris hailing from Malappuram, and Dileep of Thrissur. They were remanded in judicial custody. The investigators have found that fraudsters have tried to sell a rented car worth Rs 17 lakh through a forged RC book.

"On interrogation, it was revealed that the scam had a wider network. Five more fraudsters, including Manaf, Nazeer and Sambhu Unni are also part of the racket. They have gone into hiding," said DYSP K Sreekumar.

Cars worth more than Rs 10 lakh were mortgaged in the range of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 50,000. Strangely, the money lenders never bothered to demand the original RC book. This gave an added advantage to the fraudsters to mortgage more stolen vehicles and siphon off money, police said.

The police have seized the vehicles from various spots in between Kovalam and Koyilandy.  Investigators have got vital leads that the vehicles were widely used to peddle ganja and drugs, carry out goonda and other anti-social activities.

The raids were led by DySP R Sreekumar. Circle Inspector Nirmal Bose of East Police Station, senior civil police officer K R Arun Kumar, ASI K R Prasad, civil police officer K N Radhakrishnan was part of the investigation team.

Students too in the gang

The vehicle lifters also roped in college students to get cars on rent. This was particularly done to escape arrest in case of a vehicle getting booked and the onus of the crime would pass on to the students. The students, on the other hand, would be given pocket money of Rs 1,000 for providing high-end cars on rent, besides a rental charge of Rs 100 per day.

The vehicles are mortgaged using the address and documents of the students. The students, however, would not be tipped about mortgaging business. There are instances when the college students single-handedly shoulder the burden of repaying the mortgaged sum to take back their vehicle.

The scam assumes larger dimension as, police say, the persons who disperse the loans are also equally culpable.

The vital lead

The vital clues given out by a man by the name Ajay Alex hailing from Onamthuruthu proved critical in nabbing the notorious vehicle lifters. Ajay had given his car worth Rs 17 lakh to Jestin on a daily rent of Rs 2000. Jestin had paid Ajay an advance of Rs 30,000 after convincing him the vehicle is to be used by an NRK who had come down for holidays and that Jestin himself would be his driver.

Ajay realized that he was duped when Jestin did not return the vehicle even after a month. On getting information that Jestin was staying at a lodge at Thirunakkara, here, Ajay and his friends secretly booked a room next to where Jestin was staying and apprehended him. They got to know the vehicle was mortgaged somewhere in Thrissur. They took him to Thrissur from where Ajay got back his vehicle.

During the conversation, Jestin had dropped hints he had links across the state where vehicles taken on rent are pledged. Ajay passed on the information to the DYSP. When the police raided the hotel, Jestin was engaged in fixing another deal to loan a rented vehicle.

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