FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
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Former Air India Employee Pleads Guilty to Federal Charge
In Half-Million Dollar Embezzlement from Airline
- He Set Up a Fraudulent Bank Account, Inflated Invoices, and Diverted Airline Checks -
WASHINGTON - Sanjay Gupta, 54, of Silver Spring, Md., has pled guilty to a federal charge stemming from a half-million dollar embezzlement scheme he carried out against Air India, his former employer, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced today.
Gupta pled guilty on June 13, 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of interstate transportation of stolen securities. He is to be sentenced Sept. 28, 2012 by the Honorable Amy Berman Jackson. Gupta faces a potential maximum statutory sentence of up to 10 years in prison, as well as potential fines, forfeiture, and other penalties. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the likely range is up to 30 months of incarceration and a fine of up to $50,000. In addition, Gupta has made full restitution to Air India of $536,074.
According to information submitted to the court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Schornstein, Gupta became an employee of Air India, a foreign airline, in November 1997, working as an administrative assistant. The airline is part of the Indian government-owned, Air India Limited, doing business in the District of Columbia with an office on K Street NW.
Gupta worked in a three-person office, essentially serving as a secretary handling administrative duties. He resigned his position in March 2010.
Air India maintained a bank account at Bank of America. On April 19, 2007, without authorization, and unbeknownst to Air India, Gupta opened a bank account in the name of Air India at a Sun Trust Bank branch in Potomac, Md. Gupta was listed as the only corporate officer and signatory. Gupta used this fraudulent bank account to divert monies of Air India that were intended for payments to third-party vendors and which represented the sales proceeds from Air India airline tickets. He also withdrew proceeds from the account for his personal benefit, using the money to make cash withdrawals, pay his creditors and utility bills, and to pay for an investment in a company that owns a coca farm in Ecuador.
In order to accomplish his scheme, Gupta would, among other things, request that Air India provide payment for a legitimate vendor using an invoice altered by him to reflect an inflated dollar amount. He would inform the Air India area sales manager that the vendor wanted a cashier’s check for payment. Gupta would then obtain a check drawn on Air India’s bank account at Bank of America in Washington, D.C. He would move the proceeds to the fraudulent Sun Trust Bank account. Gupta would then pay the vendor the actual fee charged, which was a lesser amount than the bank check, and keep the rest of the money for himself. In addition, Gupta would also deposit checks payable to Air India into the fraudulent account, representing payments for Air India airline tickets which he received in the Washington, D.C. office.
Between April 2007 and March 2010, Gupta’s embezzlement of Air India monies totaled approximately $536,074.
In announcing the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Machen praised the work of the Metropolitan Police Department detective who investigated the case, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Schornstein, who is prosecuting the case.