US charges 5 Indians with mail fraud targeting elderly

A fraud ring run by them tricked and deceived elderly victims using various ruses and instructed them to send money

US authorities in Texas have charged two more Indian youth with a large nationwide conspiracy to commit mail fraud targeting elderly victims through a ring operating out of various cities from 2019 to 2020.

Anirudha Kalkote, a 24-year-old Indian citizen incarcerated in Virginia was brought to Texas June 9 to face the charges, Jennifer B. Lowery, US Attorney for Southern District of Texas, announced Friday.

Read: Indian American doctor gets 96 months jail for healthcare fraud (March 5, 2022)

The 12-count superseding indictment charges Kalkote with conspiracy and mail fraud. Also named in the indictment is MD Azad, 25, an illegal resident of Houston, who was originally charged in August 2020.

Three others have already pleaded guilty in relation to the scheme and are awaiting sentencing — Sumit Kumar Singh, 24, Himanshu Kumar, 24, and MD Hasib, 26 are Indian nationals who illegally resided in Houston.

All five individuals remain in custody pending further criminal proceedings. Upon conviction, each faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.

The superseding indictment, returned June 9, accuses Azad and Kalkote of participating in a fraud ring from 2019-2020 which operated out of various cities including Houston. The scheme allegedly targeted elderly victims throughout the United States and elsewhere.

Read: Indian American charged with $5 million Covid-relief loan fraud (March 1, 2022)

According to the charges, the ring tricked and deceived victims using various ruses and instructed them to send money via wire through a money transmitter business such as Western Union or MoneyGram, by buying gift cards and providing to the fraudsters or by mailing cash to alias names via FedEx or UPS.

One such scheme allegedly involved the claim of providing computer technical support services. The indictment alleges that the scheme generally worked because fraudsters contacted victims by phone or via internet sites directing them to a particular phone number.

Once victims contacted them, they were told various stories such as they were communicating with an expert that needed remote access to their computer in order to provide technical support services.

The fraudsters then allegedly gained further access to their personal data and bank and credit card information. Victims typically paid a fee to conspirators for the alleged technical support but were later told they were due a refund, according to the charges.

Through paying for “technical support” or through the “refund” process, the ring gained access to the victim’s bank accounts and credit cards and manipulated the accounts to make it appear the victim was paid too large a refund due to a typographical error. Victims were then instructed to reimburse the ring by various means.

The indictment alleges victims were sometimes re-victimized multiple times and threatened with bodily harm if they did not pay.

Read: Indian arrested in U.S. over money scam targeting senior citizens (June 11, 2022)

The case is brought as a part of the Elder Justice Initiative to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud and scams that target older adults, according to a press release. In March 2020, the US Department of Justice launched National Elder Fraud Hotline to help combat fraud against older Americans and provide services to victims.

The National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833–FRAUD–11 (833–372–8311) is open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 6 pm eastern time. Services are available for speakers of English, Spanish and other languages.

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