Five sent to prison in nationwide fraud scheme targeting elderly victims
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas
HOUSTON – All people charged in a conspiracy to commit mail fraud have been ordered to federal prison, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.
Indian citizens MD Azad, 26, Sumit Kumar Singh, 30, Himanshu Kumar, 26, MD Hasib, 28, and Anirudha Kalkote, 26, admitted they participated in a fraud ring from 2019-2020 which operated out of various cities including Houston. All illegally resided in Houston.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt has now ordered Hasib to serve 78 months in federal prison. The court previously sentenced Singh, Kumar and Kalkote each also to 78 months, while Azad, the highest ranking member of the conspiracy in the United States, received 188 months. Not U.S. citizens, all are expected to face removal proceedings following the prison terms.
At the respective hearings, the court heard evidence from victim impact letters that described the suffering that almost 200 victims, many of whom were elderly, had endured because of this fraud. Some victims lost their life savings. Others were threatened when they refused to continue to pay and described continuing fear and ongoing anxiety after being watched through the video cameras on their home computers. In handing down the sentences, the court noted that the victim letters sounded like a “horror show.”
“Anxiety, fear, humiliation and devastating financial loss are what these victims endured,” said Hamdani. “The criminals were relentless, preying on the elderly, often revictimizing their targets. These scammers from India didn’t care what impact their scheme had; all they cared about was money and a lot of it. Thankfully, the court imposed a just sentence for each of these ruthless fraudsters, bringing the victims peace and closure.”
“The sentences imposed for the defendants in this case should serve as a harbinger for anyone attempting to defraud and manipulate our nation’s elderly. Prison awaits you,” said Special Agent in Charge Ramsey E. Covington of IRS Criminal Investigation (CI). “This was an effort that combined the investigative skills of multiple law enforcement agencies that partnered together to uphold our commitment to the Elder Justice Initiative. We will continue to protect our seniors.”
The scheme targeted elderly victims throughout the United States and elsewhere.
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.
Part of the scheme involved fraudsters contacting victims by phone or via internet sites for computer technical support and directing victims to a particular phone number. Once victims contacted the fraudsters, 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 gained access to victims’ personal data and bank and credit card information.
Victims typically paid a fee to conspirators for the fake technical support but were later told they were due a refund. 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.
Victims were sometimes re-victimized multiple times and threatened with bodily harm if they did not pay.
All five individuals will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and IRS CI conducted the investigation with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations, Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies throughout the United States including the Sheriff’s Office and Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office of Augusta County, Virginia. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Belinda Beek and Quincy Ollison prosecuted the case.
The case is brought as a part of the Elder Justice Initiative. Its goal is to support and coordinate the Department’s enforcement and programmatic efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect and financial fraud and scams that target our nation’s older adults.
In March 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice launched National Elder Fraud Hotline to help combat fraud against older Americans and provide services to victims. If you or someone you know is a victim of elder fraud, we encourage you to 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.
Updated September 28, 2023