Bengaluru priest arrested for fraud: He misused Sudha Murty’s name to shame NRI cousin for ignoring him

The accused, Arun Kumar, promised to ensure Murty's participation in the golden jubilee celebrations of a Kannada collective in California.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Oct 16, 2023 | 5:20 PMUpdatedOct 16, 2023 | 5:31 PM

Arun Kumar was arrested for impersonation and cheating. (Supplied)

The Jayanagar police in Bengaluru have arrested a 34-year-old priest from Malleswaram for fraudulently obtaining ₹5 lakh from a US-based Kannada collective by falsely assuring the participation of Infosys Foundation Chairperson Sudha Murty at an event in California.

Identifying the priest as Arun Kumar, the police said he committed the offence in a bid to get even with his US-based cousin.

The “revenge” plan was allegedly hatched since the cousin, living in the US for 10 years, had not contacted Kumar all these years. The accused apparently wanted to publicly shame his cousin.

Kumar saw an opportunity to exact revenge when the Kannada Koota of Northern California (KKNC) started preparations for its golden jubilee celebrations at Milpitas, a city in the state of California in the US. The organisers wanted philanthropist Murty to be the chief guest.

Claiming to be well-connected, the priest convinced his cousin that he would make arrangements to get Murty — mother-in-law of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak — as the chief guest.

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Plan to exact revenge

Kumar reportedly told the police that he and his cousin were very close before he left for the US 10 years ago.

“There was not even a single phone call all these 10 years and all of a sudden, he remembers me when he wants the Infosys Foundation’s chairperson to attend his function. I told him I know people in Sudha Murty’s office and I could arrange for her participation,” police sources quoted Kumar as saying.

Murty’s office received an email on 5 April this year, inviting her to the 50th anniversary of KKNC. The invitation also named the event “Meet and Greet Sudha Murty”.

On 26 April, Murty’s office replied that she would not be attending the event due to other obligations.

In September, Murty’s office came across social media posts claiming that she would be the chief guest at the KKNC event.

On contacting the organisation, the office learnt that one Shruti, an organising committee member, had created the post without speaking to Murty.

The foundation also learnt that tickets, priced at $40 each, had also been sold. Murty’s office even came to know that someone had been given ₹5 lakh to meet her travel expenses.

After Murty’s Personal Assistant Mamata Sanjay lodged a complaint with the Jayanagar cybercrime police, a case was registered against Shruti and another woman, Lavanya, under Sections 419 and 420 of the IPC, for impersonation and cheating, along with other sections under the Information Technology (IT) Act.

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Crime trail

The police soon contacted Shruti’s husband in the US over WhatsApp. He told investigators that he had contacted one of his cousins, Arun Kumar — a resident of the Malleswaram area of Bengaluru — and sought his help to bring Murty to the event as the chief guest.

Kumar agreed and demanded a sum of ₹5 lakh to arrange for Murty’s travel. Shruti’s husband asked one of his uncles in Malleswaram to transfer the amount to Kumar’s account, which was done.

Meanwhile, Shruti spoke to one Lavanya, who introduced herself as Murty’s office staff. The latter promised that Murty would attend the event.

After speaking to Shruti’s husband, the police picked up Kumar from his residence on Sunday, 15 October. He confessed to the crime, and the police recorded his arrest and recovered the ₹5 lakh.

The police were in for a bigger surprise when they questioned the priest about Lavanya.

“It was Kumar who spoke in a woman’s voice to Shruti claiming to be Lavanya from Sudha Murty’s office. Lavanya confirmed Murty’s participation in the event as the chief guest,” a senior police officer told South First.

“We have arrested Arun Kumar from Malleswaram, and we will file a charge sheet soon,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Rahul Kumar Shahpurwad told South First.