Three Men Plead Guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud
CONCORD – Three men, Syed Hoque, 24, of Brooklyn, New York, Tharushan Nirmalachandran, 30, of Ile-Bizard, Quebec, and Aijtharan Raveendran, 29, of Toronto, Ontario, have pleaded guilty in federal court to participating in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, United States Attorney Scott W. Murray announced today.
According to court documents and statements made in court, in April 2019, Hoque, Nirmalachandran, and Raveendran, conspired with others to withdraw money from other persons’ bank accounts by using cloned debit cards at ATMs. A “cloned” debit card is a gift card or other type of card that has been re-encoded to contain other persons’ debit card information. Blank credit and debit or gift cards can be encoded with stolen credit and debit card information using an “MSR” or “Magnetic Stripe Reader” machine. An MSR machine can read and write the information stored in the magnetic stripe on the back of credit and debit cards.
On Friday, April 26, 2019, a witness reported to the Hudson Police Department that a man later identified as Hoque drove his car through an ATM in Hudson, New Hampshire, several times to make withdrawals. The Hudson Police responded and found Hoque in his car at the ATM. The officer saw that Hoque was holding a cell phone that was displaying several sets of numbers on the screen and saw a large amount of cash on the front passenger seat of his car and several ATM or credit cards on the center console.
A search of Hoque’s phone revealed text messages in an application called “WhatsApp” from the weekend of April 24 through 26, 2019. One group message chain from April 26, 2019, showed members of the conspiracy coordinating their activities as they withdrew money from ATMs with the cloned debit cards.
The trio was operating out of a hotel room in Methuen, Massachusetts. Hotel surveillance video showed that, early in the morning on April 27, 2019, Nirmalachandran and Raveendran carried large duffle bags out of their hotel room. Investigators later found duffle bags during a search of Nirmalachandran’s car that contained (i) a portable MSR machine; (ii) 103 Visa, American Express, and MasterCard gift cards, 96 of which contained cloned debit card information; (iii) $51,610 United States currency; and (iv) a Hewlett Packard laptop computer. A later search of the computer revealed text files that contained over 170 debit card numbers.
In total, from April 25, 2019, through April 27, 2019, members of the conspiracy successfully withdrew at least $43,980.00 and attempted to withdraw an additional $69,900.00 from other people’s bank accounts using cloned debit cards.
Hoque pleaded guilty today and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 1, 2020.
Nirmalachandran pleaded guilty on November 4, 2019 and will be sentenced on February 14, 2020.
Raveendran pleaded guilty on November 14, 2019 and will be sentenced on February 28, 2020.
“Fraudsters like these defendants cause serious damage by stealing money from their victim’s bank accounts,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “They also drive up business costs and undermine confidence in our banking system. In order to protect the citizens of New Hampshire, we will not hesitate to file federal charges against those who attempt to steal hard-earned money from innocent victims. I am grateful to the law enforcement officers whose hard work led to this successful prosecution.”
“The United States Secret Service is committed to investigating financial crimes including the unauthorized use of debit cards,” said Timothy Benitez, Resident Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, Manchester Resident Office. “The success of this investigation is a result of the cooperation between federal and local law enforcement partners.”
This matter was investigated by the United States Secret Service, with assistance from the Hudson and Methuen Police Departments. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Hunter.