BOSTON – Two New York men previously arrested and charged in December 2023 in connection with staging armed robberies in furtherance of a visa fraud conspiracy have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Boston, Mass.
Rambhai Patel, 36, and Balwinder Singh, 39, were indicted on one count each of conspiracy to commit visa fraud. Patel was arrested in Seattle on Dec. 13, 2023 and remains detained pending trial. Singh was arrested in Queens, N.Y. on Dec. 13, 2023, and was released on conditions following an initial appearance on Dec. 28, 2023.
According to the charging documents, starting in March 2023, Patel and his co-conspirators, including at times Singh, set up and carried out staged armed robberies of at least nine convenience/liquor stores and fast-food restaurants across the United States, including at least five in Massachusetts. It is alleged that the purpose of the staged robberies was to allow the clerks present to claim that they were victims of a violent crime on an application for U nonimmigration status (U Visa). A U Visa is available to victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and who have been helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.
During the alleged staged robberies, the “robber” would threaten store clerks and/or owners with an apparent firearm before taking cash from the register and fleeing, while the interaction was captured on store surveillance video. The clerks and/or owners would then wait five or more minutes until the “robber” had escaped before calling police to report the “crime.” The “victims” are alleged to have each paid Patel to participate in the scheme. One purported victim allegedly paid $20,000 to participate as a victim in one of the staged armed robberies. In turn, Patel allegedly paid the store owners for the use of their stores for the staged robbery.
It is alleged that at least two purported victim co-conspirators submitted U Visa applications based on being victims of the staged armed robberies.
The charge of conspiracy to commit visa fraud provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy and Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division made the announcement. Valuable assistance in the investigation was provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of New York and the Western District of Washington; FBI’s New York and Seattle Field Offices; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; Massachusetts State Police; Worcester County District Attorney’s Office; and the Hingham, Marshfield, Randolph, Weymouth, Worcester, Upper Darby, (Pa.), West Pittston (Pa.), Louisville, (Ky.) and Bean Station (Tenn.) Police Departments. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elianna J. Nuzum and Jessica L. Soto of the Major Crimes Unit are prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.