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Trio arrested for posing as DHS officials may have defrauded more than 150 people: FBI

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The trio, which includes two Indian Americans, duped victims of more than $6 million.

The three tricksters who cheated people by posing as officials from the Department of Homeland Security may have cheated more than what the officials initially anticipated. The trio was arrested from San Diego, California, in June, The San Diego Union Tribune reported.

While Panesar and Hastie bilked people by providing false immigration documents, Singh is accused of helping in finding work for the victims. “According to the indictment unsealed June 7, Panesar, 69, and Hastie, 47, of Tijuana, falsely claimed to be DHS agents since at least 2014. They frequently charged exorbitant fees, typically $20,000 to $40,000 or more, and would then demand more money to speed up the process or guarantee the documents by a certain date, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Young,” the report said.

A Kenya-born Sikh, Panesar is accused of scamming the victims under the pretense of providing them green cards for a fee. The report said that in 2014 Panesar allegedly demanded $45,000 from an illegal immigrant in return for a green card. In another incident, Panesar is accused of demanding $2250 from an illegal alien to pay someone to stop the client’s deportation proceedings.

However, if anyone challenged Panesar on his documents or demanded refund, he would threaten them with physical violence; and in one instance intimidated the victim with beheading. While some of the money taken from the victims was wired to Nigeria, other was deposited in the banks in lesser than $10,000 amounts to avoid suspicion.

The Assistant US Attorney Andrew Young told a San Diego judge that both Panesar and Hastie were arrested after FBI’s yearlong covert wiretap investigation and, therefore, that they should be kept in custody. The judge had granted bail to both that time.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty, and Panesar’s defense attorney refused to discuss the case with media, the report said.