At first glance, he may look as any other ordinary person who is trying hard to make it big in one of India’s poorest regions, however, the police say the 26-year-old is the kingpin of a daring ATM fraud network that stretched across four states in eastern India and even Nepal.
Pankaj Sahni, a physics graduate from a village in north Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district, also allegedly ran a training school of sorts for unemployed youth, teaching them the art of duping unsuspecting ATM users.
According to a Hindustan Times report, police arrested five people, including Sahni, from a brothel in Muzaffarpur on July 23 and have charged him with fraudulently withdrawing Rs 1.40 crore from bank accounts through ATMs between 2010 and 2012.
According to report, Sahni has confessed to his crime and told them that his pupils were spread across Jharkhand, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and even Nepal.
The operations of the network were so vast that police said they had no estimate of how much money had been stolen between 2012 and 2017.
According to the police, his modus operandi was very simple. Sahni would stand in queue as a customer and under the garb of helping those not familiar with ATM operations, would press some key(s) after which the screen would temporarily go blank. He would then tell them that there was a technical glitch in the machine and would allegedly fraudulently withdraw money from their accounts after they left the ATM.
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Sahni was first arrested in March 2012 after a fraud of Rs 1.30 crore was reported in loading of cash in ATM machines. He was then working with an ATM operations and maintenance firm.
When he got out on bail in November 2012, he set up his unregistered “school” — Pankaj Business Management (PBM) institute.
Police said he had so far trained 55 men. He grew in confidence and stature as a master ATM fraudster and would even leave behind his signature ‘PBM mark’ at ATM kiosks after hacking them.
Sahni, a resident of Madhuban Kanti village under Minapur police station of Muzaffarpur district, 92 kms north of Patna, hails from a poor Dalit family. His family members said they had disowned him and weren’t willing to comment on the arrest and the allegations.