The crime branch of the Delhi Police has arrested a father and son for allegedly cheating a man of Rs 1.43 crore on the pretext of testing a “rice puller” device, which, they claimed, they would later sell to United States’ space agency NASA, PTI reported on Wednesday. Police said they had duped at least 30 people from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The accused, Virender Mohan Brar and his son Nitin Mohan Brar, had claimed they wanted to test the device, a “rare piece of copper struck by thunderbolt giving it the power to pull rice”. They had allegedly told the complainant that if the test was successful, they would sell it to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for Rs 37,500 crore.

The complainant, Narender, is a businessman. He said Virender Mohan Brar told him the testing would be done by “scientists of Defence Research and Development Organisation” who “worked for him”, and asked him to invest for huge profits.

They signed a deal and Narender paid Rs 87.2 lakh as fees for scientists and the cost of arranging special anti-radiation suits and chemicals that the scientists would wear while testing the device. Later, he was made to sign another deal and paid Rs 51.1 lakh.

Later, Narender realised that the “DRDO scientists” were working for Brar for just Rs 20,000. He then filed a complaint and the father and son were arrested.

“Rice puller is a non-existent thing,” said Alok Kumar, the joint commissioner of police (crime branch). “The cheats take a copper plate or utensil and coat it with liquid magnet, and then fill some boiled rice with small iron filings and fool the victim by pulling the rice grain towards the magnet-coated copper article.”

Instances of cheating related to the imaginary “rice puller” have been reported earlier too, in Hyderabad, Delhi and Mumbai.