Visakhapatnam: A 27-year-old engineering dropout and three others have been arrested for cheating two MLAs in Andhra Pradesh. The gang collected Rs 35 lakh from the MLAs under the pretence of being personal assistants (PA) to chief minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu respectively.

The accused have been identified as Vishnu Murthy, Tarun, Jaya Krishna and Jagadeesh, all aged under 30 years. Investigating officials said that the accused made spoof calls to as many as 15 local and national political leaders.

Visakhapatnam police commissioner Mahesh Chandra Laddha and said that this case was a first of its kind. Vishnu, who dropped out of engineering, had a flare for hacking and used a phone spoofing app to commit such crimes.

The police said that with the help of the app, the accused could make phone calls and the receiver would see the phone number as that of the chief minister’s or his PAs.

“On May 7 and June 6, the gang made calls and managed to collect Rs 25 lakh from former MLA Bandaru Satyanarayana Murthy and Rs 10 lakh from Palasa MLA Appala Raju. Vishnu Murthy would ensure that the victims believe that he was the PA to CM and demand money through WhatsApp messages. The message would include that the CM was busy,” Mahesh Chandra Laddha told reporters.

"The gang also made spoof calls to Visakhapatnam MP MVV Satyanarayana, who sensed that something was fishy and sent 4-5 persons along with cash to the appointed location. They took care to hide themselves and stayed some distance away. The gang came to collect the cash and left without meeting the MPs men,” the commissioner was quoted as saying.

The police said that they had seized 28.22 grams of gold, 19.2 grams of silver and five mobile phones, besides Rs 5.8 lakh in cash from Vishnu Murthy and the other accused.