More charges filed in nationwide fraud scam targeting elderly victims

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Representative cybercrime photo Reuters/Dado Ruvic

Anirudha Kalkote, a 24-year-old Indian citizen has been taken into custody on charges related to a large nationwide conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The arrest was announced June 10, 2022, by U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery in a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Texas.

Kalkote was incarcerated in Virginia and brought to Texas June 9 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 press release said.

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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.

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 account(s) 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.

Upon conviction, each faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $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 are Indian nationals who illegally resided in Houston.

All five individuals remain in custody pending further criminal proceedings.

The case is brought as a part of the Elder Justice Initiative, and as part o the initiative, the Justice Department launched the National Elder Fraud Hotline to help combat fraud against older Americans and provide services to victims.

If anyone is a victim of elder fraud or knows someone who is, call the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833–FRAUD–11 (833–372–8311). The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. eastern time. Services are available for speakers of English, Spanish and other languages

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