A life in crime, aided by a glib tongue and plenty of nerve

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 South Indian actor Leena Maria Paul’s boyfriend Sukesh, allegedly involved in the Rs. 19-crore bank fraud case, is not just being hunted by the Chennai police, he is also being tracked by the Bangalore police in connection with over 10 cheating cases.

While Leena was arrested by the Chennai police in Delhi recently, Sukesh, who is believed to have been with her, gave the police the slip. The Bangalore police describe Sukesh alias Balaji alias Shekhar Reddy as a smooth talker, who has deceived a number of businessmen in and around Bangalore by posing either as a high-level government official or a close relative of power-wielding politicians.

High school dropout

A dropout from a reputed school in the city, Sukesh loved the good life, high-end cars and flashy phones, the police said. They said he used his communication skills to impress businessmen and bankers. His first known cheating case dates back to 2009, when he was just 21. He rented an upmarket apartment on Old Madras Road posing as the son of then Revenue Minister K. Karunakara Reddy. He then vamoosed without paying his rent for two months, amounting to Rs 1.8 lakh, prompting flat owner Aman Dutta to lodge a complaint with the police. This first put him on the Bangalore police’s radar.

Sukesh also used to pose as son of the former Union Minister for Shipping and Road Transport T.R. Baalu, duping a local private security agency by hiring armed guards to flaunt his status, the police said. He then fled without paying up and a complaint was filed with the Koramangala police.

CM’s secretary

In 2011, he allegedly cheated a Chennai tech firm by claiming to be Prakash Shetty, secretary to the then Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa. He approached the firm’s director Sundar Rangarajan and extracted Rs. 78,000, promising a government contract to supply electronic goods for traffic management. After receiving the money, he even created fake mail ID with the government emblem and emailed Mr. Rangarajan to confirm having receiving the amount. Mr. Rangarajan, who then waited for a month for things to move, went to the Vidhana Soudha to check the progress of the contract only to realise he had been scammed. This led to Sukesh’s first arrest in April 2011.

Since then, Sukesh has been arrested at least three more times by the Bangalore police, but each time he managed to get out on bail. In between, he posed as the grandson of Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and the son of the former Union Minister M.K. Alagiri and tried to con people in Karnataka into buying swanky cars cheap which he said were being auctioned by the Tamil Nadu government. He was arrested by the Cubbon Park police in Chennai. The police said he had cheated businessmen and firms across Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh of over Rs. 10 crore.

Modus operandi

Sukesh’s strategy is to pose as a government representative. Police sources say he is a smooth talker gifted with voice modulation to fool his quarry.

Often, he would call firms interested in working with the government and, once they were hooked, would demand a 10 per cent commission in advance. Once he got the money, he would disappear and change his cellphone number, said a senior police officer in northeast division, who had arrested him once.

10 cases

Ironically, though there are over 10 cheating cases filed against him in Bangalore city, Sukesh managed to secure bail within a few days and move to another city in search of his new targets.

The conman recently hoodwinked the Chennai police in Delhi a few days ago, dodging a trap. However, the police arrested his actor girlfriend for abetting him in cheating a Chennai bank of Rs. 19 crore.

Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Kamal Panth said the Bangalore police had not heard from their Delhi counterparts. Though Sukesh was involved in many cases in and around the city, he was out on bail and there were no fresh cases filed against him, he said.

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