Washington: US federal law enforcement officials have arrested a 24-year-old Indian national in Virginia on charges of participating in an alleged nationwide scam targeting senior citizens.
Anirudha Kalkote was produced before a US magistrate in Houston on Friday to face the charges.
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. He will appear again in court on the new charges in the near future.
The indictment alleges victims were sometimes re-victimised multiple times and threatened with bodily harm if they did not pay.
Upon conviction, both of them face up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible USD 250,000 fine.
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. They are Indian nationals who illegally resided in Houston.
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, federal prosecutors said.
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, the Department of Justice said in a statement.