Three Men of Indian origin charged in million-dollar elder-fraud scheme

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Representative cybercrime photo Reuters/Dado Ruvic

Three men of Indian origin, two of them from Queens, N.Y. and the third from  Ghaziabad, India have been charged with allegedly accessing the computers of elderly individuals in the United States, making them malfunction, and luring those targeted into purchasing phony computer repair services, which netted at least $1.3 million for the conspirators.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman, and Special Agent-in-Charge of the Newark Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Gregory W. Ehrie, announced May 24, the unsealing of a criminal Complaint in Manhattan federal court that charges Gunjit Malhotra, Gurjeet Singh, and Jas Pal with allegedly exploiting elderly victims by remotely accessing their computers making them pay for technical support they did not need.

Malhotra, 30, of Ghaziabad, Singh, 22 of Queens, New York, and Pal, 54, of Queens, New York, have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to access a protected computer in furtherance of fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  Singh was also charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Malhotra and Pal were arrested May 23, and were presented before Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman, and Singh was arrested the same day in St. Louis, Missouri, and was scheduled to be presented before a magistrate judge May 24, the press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

According to the allegations in the Complaint : Malhotra, Singh, Pal, and others engaged in a scheme in which they and their co-conspirators purported to provide computer repair services to victims located throughout the United States, many of whom are elderly.

They allegedly provided their victims’ false and misleading information to extract payment for computer repair services.  The Complaint outlines examples of how the accused allegedly (i) claimed to be associated with major technology software companies when, in fact, they were not; (ii) promised to provide computer services when none were provided; and (iii) represented that computer repair services were needed when they knew that was false.

The Complaint goes on to allege that as part of their scheme, the defendants and their co-conspirators accessed their victims’ computers and caused them to freeze or, in other instances, installed software on their victims’ computers and caused their victims’ email accounts to send emails that thanked the perpetrators for providing computer services.

Prosecutors also allege in the Complaint that in connection with the scheme, the defendants and others established several companies.  The victims typically sent payments to those companies via private and commercial interstate mail carrier, among other methods.  In total, the defendants and their co-conspirators have obtained from their victims more than $1.3 million, the Complaint alleges.

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