ON 15 FEBRUARY 2015, the owners of a commercial space in a building named Gokul Kshitij, in the city of Virar, around 80 kilometres north of central Mumbai, leased out the property to a group of fruit sellers. In the days that followed, the new tenants stocked their shop, introduced themselves to the other shopkeepers in the building, and settled into their business. In particular, they struck up a rapport with the staff of Omkar Jewellers, adjacent to their shop, occasionally giving them fruit on credit.
Ten days later, on the morning of 25 February, the owner of Omkar Jewellers arrived at his shop to find, to his shock, that his neighbours were not the amiable entrepreneurs he had believed them to be. Over the course of the previous night, the supposed fruit sellers had drilled a hole about 1.5 feet long and equally wide through the wall that the shop shared with the jewellery store. They had then looted the shop, gathering up—according to a first information report—six kilograms of gold ornaments, four kilograms of silver and Rs 15 lakh in cash. The fruit shop lay abandoned.
This wasn’t the only incident of its kind in the region around this time. A few days earlier, on the night of 13 February, a group of burglars broke into a branch of the State Bank of India in Badlapur, around 60 kilometres east of Mumbai. Tearing into a strong room using gas cutters, they stole cash and valuables, worth Rs 1.44 crore. And earlier, in January, in the Navi Mumbai suburb of Kamothe, another group pretending to be fruit sellers had burgled a jewellery store next to their shop.