Five Indian Americans charged with $10 million gas station fraud

The nefarious scheme was spread over four states.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: Five Indian American men have been charged with fraudulently financing several gas stations spread across four Midwestern states.

Charanpal Ghuman (34) and Aga Khan (33) were indicted on 23 separate criminal counts: 19 counts of bank fraud, three counts of bank bribery, and one count of filing a false Federal Income Tax return. Their two cohorts – Akash Brahmbhatt (39) and Shital Mehta (47), who were not arrested but will be arraigned at a later date – were each charged with one count of bank fraud. The fifth conspirator, named Shabbir Khan (31), is the brother of Aga Khan. He was charged separately with two misdemeanor counts of failing to file Federal Income Tax returns in 2008 and 2009.

The indictment is demanding that Ghuman and Khan forfeit roughly $10 million they gained from their fraudulent activities, as well as $198,180 of fraudulent money that Ghuman allegedly used to pay for a Porsche Carrera GT Coupe sports car. Both Ghuman and Khan have pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.

The scheme allegedly took place between 2006 and 2009. During this time, Ghuman and Khan sold 26 gas stations – spread throughout the states of Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin – by targeting purchasers who were denied loans by the Small Business Administration. The defendants would arrange for loans, either in part or entirely, in the name of a purchaser’s relative that had a high-enough credit score for a loan. Mehta was responsible for arranging the falsified loans and tax returns, with assistance from Brahmbhatt, who was even gifted cars for his help in the scheme.

Ghuman is a resident of North Barrington, Illinois. Both Khans live in Schaumburg, Illinois, Brahmbhatt in Texas, and Mehta in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.

If convicted, Ghuman and Aga Khan are looking at stiff fines and lengthy jail times. Each of the bank fraud and bribery charges carries a $1 million fine and a maximum of 30 years in prison, with the tax charges each carrying a $250,000 fine and up to three years in prison. If convicted, they’ll also be responsible for civil penalties amounting to a maximum of 75% of the taxes and interest they owe, as well as costs of the prosecution.

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