BANGALORE: A gang of seven that specialized in targeting unguarded ATMs and carting away the cash-dispensing machines has been nabbed. With this, police have cracked two ATM heists reported last month in the city and recovered Rs 14 lakh in cash.
The gang had carried away the two ATMs – one with Rs 24.35 lakh cash from Bagalur in Yelahanka on June 17 and another with Rs 10.35 lakh from Iggalur village, off Hosur Road, nine days later — after yanking them off the floor. The gang is suspected to have splurged most of the unrecovered Rs 21 lakh on liquor and women in less than a month.
The mastermind behind the heists was Somashekar Chinna Biddappa alias Somu, a vehicle recovery agent with a private finance company and an Anekal resident. Somu was inspired after watching a TV show on an ATM heist.
Somu and his friend Ramaswamy Ramaiah, a Hoskote resident, hatched a conspiracy to tow away a few ATMs. They decided to first identify unguarded ATMs and zeroed in on a few of them. They then realized it may difficult for the two of them to cart away the ATM by themselves and roped in five of their friends.
The gangsters first struck at a Canara Bank ATM near Huskur Gate, Hebbagodi, Anekal taluk on June 16. They retreated after running into logistic issues. The next night, the seven men descended on an SBI ATM in Dwarkanagar, Bagalur, off Bellary Road. They yanked and lugged the ATM before loading it on to a Tata Sumo and sped away.
After taking the machine to a desolate place in Anekal taluk, they broke it open using gas-cutters and emptied the money. Later, they dumped the machine in Nagondanapalli tank in Hosur, Tamil Nadu.
Encouraged, the gangsters carted away the Bank of Maharashtra ATM from Iggalur, off Hosur Road, on June 26. After emptying out the machine, the gangsters dumped it in Tattekere tank of Harohalli, Ramanagaram district.
The spate of ATM heists put Bangalore Rural police on alert. The modus operandi made it clear there was one gang at work behind both the incidents. A special team constituted to crack the crime accomplished its mission within a month of the last ATM heist .
Apart from Somashekar and Ramaswamy, the others arrested are Praveen Shankar Rao, Naveen Kumar Kullappa, Nishant Ramachandrappa alias Koti and Ramesh Shivanna, Ramesh Balakrishna alias Shishukeli, all residents of Hoskote. The culprits are all in the 25-30 age group.
The seven men are in judicial custody. Police said they will seek their custody to find out if they are involved in any other crime.
The gangsters have already confided in police that they did try in vain to loot two ATMs in Hosur and Mukandapalli, Sipcot police station limits.
Amar Kumar Pande, inspector general of police (central range), said: “Somashekar was the mastermind. He looked out for unguarded ATMs and chose the targets.”
Where & when they struck
* June 16: Attempt made to cart away Canara Bank ATM at Huskur Gate, Hebbagodi but culprits have second thoughts and leave
* June 17: Masked miscreants walk into an SBI kiosk in Dwarkanagar, Bagalur, disable the camera and carry away the machine with Rs 24.35 lakh
* June 26: Four masked men walk into a Bank of Maharashtra ATM, disable the camera, lug the machine and scoot with the Rs 10.35 lakh cash
How the gang was caught
Even as Bangalore police worked overtime to crack the two ATM robberies, breakthrough came their way by chance.
A Hoskote burglar, who landed in police custody after a sudden change in his spending pattern, blurted before his interrogators, “This is nothing. There are men in my town who have become rich overnight. They are spending thousands of rupees in bars every night and on women.”
The police were soon on the trail of these men. One of them, Nishant Ramachandrappa alias Koti, had been caught on the CCTV camera outside Bagalur ATM. Koti’s large eyes, which almost appeared to pop out in the camera footage, were a giveaway. The suspects’ mobile records were tracked before the men in uniform picked them up.
“They were spending heavily at bars, eating good food and splurging on women. We watched their activities for some days and found they had no definite source of income. Their mobile calls and other details helped us unearth the case,” said Amar Kumar Pande, IGP.