Thursday, August 12, 2010

TN's Robin Hood lands in police net - - 12 Aug 2010

CHENNAI: "We are going to try to take all the money that we think is unnecessarily being spent and take it from the haves' and give it to the have nots' that need it so much." The famous words of 36th US president Lyndon Johnson were put into practice by R Prakash, a bright engineer hailing from Madurai.

Prakash, however, did it in the style of a cyber-era avatar of Robin Hood, the outlawed do-gooder in English folklore. He cheated a few ashrams and spent the money to help the underprivileged to get education, the poor to get medical treatment and even some genuine NGOs to carry out their social work.

But police caught up with Prakash, a
BE graduate in mechanical engineering from Anna University, on Wednesday. Following a complaint by a Chennai-based ashram, the cyber crime cell arrested him from Elur, a village in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. The ashram had found something suspicious in a mail they had received from Prakash.

The story of
R Prakash (39), a bright student and a man who married a widow with two children after meeting her over internet, evoked the sympathies of even the investigators of the case.

Prakash decided to take the route to crime after his father was cheated by a self-styled godman in Madurai. His father Rajagopal lost more than Rs 2 lakh to the godman who offered to help the family tide over problems. Rajagopal worked in the Hosur plant of TVS. His family owned a small textile shop in Madurai. When he retired, he wanted to settle down in Madurai but there were partnership issues among the siblings over the textile shop.

"Rajagopal got around Rs 3.5 lakh when he retired from the company as retirement benefits. He spent most of the money on the godman, hoping that his problems would be solved. But nothing was solved Rajagopal fell and died within six months. His mother also died six months later. Prakash, their only child, was orphaned," said C Sridhar, deputy commissioner of police (cyber crime cell).

"Prakash then decided to make money by cheating such ashrams and godmen. He started searching for them on internet and then sent them mails, offering to send them vehicles for their services. He demanded a minuscule amount as a yearly rent, saying that the money was only to pay the road tax and insurance and did not demand any rent for the vehicle. Some such ashrams responded and he collected money from them. However, when we cross-checked his expenses, we came to know that he had been distributing this money to help the underprivileged, like helping parents who find it difficult to pay the school fees of their children and families which find it difficult to afford medical treatment," Dr M Sudhakar, additional deputy commissioner (cyber crime cell) told TOI.

In some cases, Prakash even returned the money which he had fraudulently collected from some ashrams after he realised they were indeed serving the society. "In one case he returned the money to one NGO which took care of the blind children. In fact, he added some of his own money to the amount and asked the NGO to take good care of the children," Sudhakar said.

It was one such mail that finally landed him in the police net. The Kendriya Ashram in Mandaveli lodged a complaint with the cyber crime cell after they received his mail, suspecting it to be a fraudulent. Police tracked the IP address of the mail and zeroed in on Prakash in Elur.

By K Praveen Kumar

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