Indian-American couple from Minnesota charged with international elder fraud scheme

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A federal grand jury in Virginia returned an indictment Nov. 5, 2019,  charging an Indian-American couple from Minnesota with their roles in a fraud scheme that primarily targeted elderly Americans.

According to court documents and allegations in the indictment, referenced in a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Chirag Janakbhai Choksi, 35, and his wife, Shachi Naishadh Majmudar, 35, were members of an alleged criminal conspiracy whose members impersonated law enforcement officials to trick victims and coerce them into mailing and shipping cash to other conspiracy members.

Choksi and Majmudar are both charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, as well as one count of mail fraud. If convicted, they face a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison for each of the charges. Choksi is also charged with aggravated identity theft, which provides for a mandatory minimum term of two years in prison that must run consecutive to any other sentence imposed.

Prosecutors say these schemes generally start with “robocalls”, designed to create a sense of urgency with messages warning the recipient that they have some sort of serious legal problem, and that if they do not immediately take a particular action demanded by the callers, then there will be dire consequences.

Furthermore, that in order to prevent these dire consequences, the recipients must pay money, by wire transfer or cash, to some purported government entity.

In one seemingly outrageous case cited in the press release, members of the conspiracy impersonated DEA agents and advised Victim 1 that a vehicle located near the southwest border contained cocaine and her bank information. The fraudsters then convinced Victim 1 to surrender half the cash in her bank accounts in good faith until a thorough investigation had been completed to clear her name of any criminal activity.

The conspiracy allegedly operated cells in multiple states, including New Jersey, California, Indiana, Texas, Illinois and Minnesota.

According to the indictment, Choksi allegedly used counterfeit driver’s licenses to identify himself when picking up cash shipments from victims, and then made multiple deposits of that cash into bank accounts controlled by conspiracy members. The indictment also alleges that Majmudar went to the online websites of FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service to track shipments of cash sent by victims, and made multiple deposits of victims’ cash into conspiracy-controlled bank accounts.

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