Fraudster Sentenced to 9 Years in Prison for Schemes to Obtain Maryland Unemployment Benefits, Defraud More than 10,000 Credit Card Holders and DirecTv
Also Ordered to Pay Over $202,000 in Restitution
Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Ellen L Hollander sentenced Amiee Arora, age 32, of Washington, D.C., today to nine years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit and committing credit/debit card fraud, and aggravated identity theft in connection with a series of fraud schemes. Judge Hollander also ordered Arora to pay restitution of $161,782.23 to the State of Maryland for fraudulent unemployment benefits paid to Arora and his co-conspirators, and $41,209.82 to the merchant to cover his losses in the credit card scheme.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent-in-Charge Michael Barcus, U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations; and Postal Inspector in Charge Gary R. Barksdale of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division. Mr. Rosenstein thanked the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) for its assistance in this investigation and prosecution.
According to his plea agreement, Arora was the sole director and resident agent of Top Of The Line Marketing, Inc. (TOTL Marketing) and co-defendant Vivek Jain worked for him. From February 14, 2010 through February 14, 2011, Arora and Jain used identifying information that they obtained through TOTL Marketing to fraudulently apply for Maryland unemployment benefits. Arora instructed Jain as to how to fraudulently apply for Maryland unemployment benefits, which DLLR, who administered unemployment benefit programs in Maryland, provided to applicants on prepaid debit cards. Once the fraudulent benefits were approved, Arora and Jain changed the mailing address for the debit cards to mailboxes that they rented, then used the cards to withdraw cash from ATM machines. On February 14, 2011, law enforcement officers in Georgia recovered 42 debit cards issued through the Maryland unemployment insurance program, from Jain’s car. Police officers also located several pages and a computer file containing the personal identifying information of approximately 1,200 Maryland residents from the Eastern Shore, Hagerstown, Baltimore and Gaithersburg. Arora had obtained the list of individuals from AV Wireless, a telecommunications business that he operated from 2004 through March 2009, and supplied the list to Jain for his use in the scheme.
Arora and Jain obtained more than 45 unauthorized debit cards worth more than $340,000 in fraudulent unemployment benefits as a result of the scheme.
Vivek Jain, age 27, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, pleaded guilty to his role in the unemployment scheme and is awaiting sentencing.
Credit Card Fraud Scheme
From May 2011 through about August 2011, Arora made fraudulent representations to a merchant, that he was marketing a shopping club membership for a fee of $9.95. Arora obtained the credit card information of more than 30,000 individuals, which he planned to use to charge the membership fee. The merchant agreed to allow Arora to use his credit card processing account to “test” approximately 18,000 credit card numbers, and to actually charge the membership fee more than 10,000 times. The merchant forwarded Arora an agreed upon percentage of funds he received from each transaction. Eventually, the credit card and other companies began reversing the fraudulent charges and the merchant ended up being charged more than $40,000 in chargeback fees.
Pretrial Release Violations
Arora was placed on pre-trial release on August 26, 2011, under rigorous conditions, including that he stay at his parents’ home on 24/7 electronic home monitoring and that he not use a computer or other electronic device to access the Internet. Despite this, Arora arranged with a third party to purchase a cellular telephone in another name and have the phone delivered covertly to the basement door of his parents’ home. In this way, he was able to continue a scheme to defraud DirecTV.
DirecTV Fraud Scheme
Under federal regulations, DirecTV and its dealers are forbidden from engaging in unsolicited telemarketing pitches. DirecTV dealers receive a $200 commission from each new DirecTV subscription. In November 2011, Arora and others agreed to sell DirecTV subscriptions through unsolicited telemarketing, which DirecTV dealers would submit as their own sales, splitting the $200 commission with Arora. Arora and a co-conspirator also assumed the identities of dormant DirecTV dealer accounts to submit subscriptions that they intended to sell through telemarketing, in order to keep the full commission themselves.
On December 8, 2011, federal agents arrested Arora and executed a search warrant at his parents’ home in Potomac and recovered the cell phone Arora had illegally obtained, thereby preventing Arora from fully carrying out the DirecTV fraud.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for their work in the investigation and thanked the Maryland DLLR, District Attorney’s Office, Atlantic Judicial District in Liberty County, Georgia and the Darien, Georgia, Police Department for their assistance. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Harry M. Gruber and Tamera L. Fine, who prosecuted the case.