A guard is booked for cheating Mescom consumers to the tune of Rs. 3.15 lakh

The Any Time Payment (ATP) machine, recently introduced by the Mangalore Electricity Supply Company Limited (Mescom), has come under a cloud with a criminal case being filed against a security guard for cheating consumers to the tune of over Rs. 3 lakh.

The complaint by M. Ramesh Shetty, Field Supervisor, Smart Detectives and Allied Services (India) Private Limited, whose staff man the machine on the Mescom premises at Attavar, alleges that in the last weekend of December, 2012, two employees Chennappa Naik and Supritha – both from Bantwal taluk – embezzled Rs. 3,15,692.

The alleged modus operandi is to input a far lower figure than the actual bill amount. For example, the complaint lists, Mr. Naik would input Rs. 100 in the Revenue Register (RR) number of the customer and forged a receipt for whose bill amount was Rs. 1,370. During the weekend he told customers that the cheque can only be deposited on a Monday and but made the entries in the case of 27 customers such that a part of the money is siphoned off. He falsified reports to Mescom stating only Rs. 1 lakh had been received through cheques, while keeping the rest of the amount, that is, Rs. 3, 15,692, in his bank account.

A Mescom cashier found something amiss in the reports and the matter came to light, said the complaint.

Mr. Shetty said that contract between the security company and ADD Technologies which manufactures the machines, obligates the security company to pay the money embezzled.

Mescom officials denied there were any written complaints from the customers, and said as the “embezzled money” had been paid to it by the security agency, the complaint was an “internal” matter between the agencies.

“Men are posted by the agency only to guide the consumers. We hope to phase it out when consumers can start using the machine without help,” said an official.

Mr. Shetty added that this was the second case of cheating since the introduction of the ATP, with the first criminal case, involving Rs. 1 lakh, having been registered around a year ago in Surathkal.

Delayed complaint

While Mr. Shetty said a complaint was lodged almost immediately in Pandeshwar Police station, no FIR had been filed. It was only on March 20 that an FIR was registered.

“The station refused to lodge an FIR though they gave us an endorsement. We suspected something amiss, and took our complaint to the Police Commissioner,” he said.

While denying dereliction of duty by the police, Manish Karbikar, Mangalore City Police Commissioner, said the complaint was initially taken as a “petition”, implying a civil case not a criminal case.

“As they wanted the money back, the police enquired into it as a civil matter. When this came to the knowledge of the Assistant Commissioner of Police, it was changed into a criminal case,” Mr, Karbikar said.

Though cases of embezzlement of money paid by electricity consumers are rare, Mescom officials have asked consumers to take the same precautions while using the Anytime Payment (ATP) machine as one would take while withdrawing money from an ATM.

The most important aspect to crosscheck was the Revenue Register or RR number to which the amount given will be deposited, said a Mescom spokesperson. A wrong RR number means that the money will be deposited into someone else’s account. Following this, consumers should scrutinise the receipt to verify amount paid, or if paid by cheque, for the cheque details.

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