Andhra Pradesh's Prakasam district police have busted a two-year old fake certificate racket and arrested seven people for issuing certificates for up to 500 courses under 'JNTC' name, mimicking a reputed technical university, on Saturday.
"We busted a nationwide operation which was being conducted through a front called Jawaharlal Nehru Technical Centre (JNTC), obviously made with an intent to confuse it with Jawaharlal Nehru Technical University (JNTU)," Prakasam district Superintendent of Police (SP) Siddarth Kaushal told IANS.
The arrested seven are Jampani Venkateshwarlu, 49, Silarapu Bala Srinivasa Rao, 53, Silarapu Sujatha, 47, Siddi Srinivas Reddy, 25, Koduri Pradeep Kumar, 32, Anaparthi Christopher, 47 and Batta Potula Venkatshwarlu, 48.
Police arrested them for cheating, forgery, using forged documents, falling under IPC Sections 420, 468, 471 and others.
Using JNTC as a front, the accused were operating in 11 states across the country.
"They were issuing fake certificates in almost every field of study and on the ground there is nothing. We catalogued almost 500 kinds of certificates they were issuing. From three-month courses to 3-year degrees," said Kaushal.
Certificates were issued in disciplines such as management, hospitality, even critical sectors like healthcare, aviation, fire and safety and others.
Until now, police were able to establish the paper trail for almost 2,400 odd certificates issued across 11 states which is likely to rise.
Meanwhile, police presented the case to the public at large as soon as possible to alert them of the people who may have used these fake degrees.
"We made the details of this investigation public immediately in the public interest because we suspect that many of these certificates have been used to gain illegal employment with the government or the private sector in sensitive places as well," observed Kaushal.
The SP hopes that employers and employees will get alerted on suspicious candidates
Explaining the modus operandi, the IPS officer said that the racket had 155 conduits in Andhra Pradesh alone, operating under the guise of a computer training institute or a similar setup which serves as a front to give any kind of certificate.
"For example in Ongole there may be a Srinivasa Computer training institute which offers any certificate just on payment of money, such as a diploma for a lab technician, diploma in agriculture or whatever," he said.
In Andhra Pradesh, the gang issued 1,900 fake certificates.
To further trace each and everyone involved in the racket, police have listed out all the certificates and JNTC branches and alerted the respective district police.
"You can expect a lot of criminal cases, cheating cases and etc. in other districts as well. I am also sending these details to other states," said Kaushal.
Though the racket is busted, Kushal fears that many people would have already misused these fake certificates to benefit.
Police managed to crack the case when they went for a regular stock checking of a fertilizer shop, which needs an agriculture diploma to run.
"The person running the shop seemed a little suspicious and when we verified everything, we found out that his diploma was fake. When we started digging deeper, we found a whole racket," he said.
Learning that the accused were operating from Visakhapatnam, police raided their place to discover fake certificates, stamps, holograms, computers and hard drives used for forgery.
The arrested seven are the masterminds of the racket who engaged several local accomplices to sell the fake certificates at any unfixed price, starting as low as Rs 2,000 to up to Rs 80,000, depending on the desperation and affordability of a buyer.
The main accused person in this case is the son of a former Air Force employee who smelled an opportunity when he worked in a fire and safety training field in Kerala.
"Now if you start issuing fake diploma and certificates for fire and safety and in factories you have these fire safety officers and supervisors, if they don't know their job, tomorrow it poses a risk to everybody," said Kaushal.
He lamented that the accused did not even spare critical sectors such as aviation, medical and fire and safety.
For further probe, police will set up a special investigation team (SIT).
(With inputs from IANS)