- Anirudha Kalkote and Md. Azad are allegedly part of a ring that tricked and deceived victims using various ruses and instructed them to send money via wire through a money transmitter business.
A 24-year-old Indian citizen from Houston, Texas, is the latest suspect taken into custody on charges related to a large nationwide conspiracy to commit mail fraud, U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery announced last week. Anirudha Kalkote was incarcerated in Virginia and brought to Texas on June 9. He is charged with conspiracy and mail fraud, according to a Department of Justice press release.
Also named in the indictment is Md. Azad, 25, an illegal resident of Houston, was originally charged in August 2020. He will appear again in court on the new charges in the near future, the DOJ said.
Citing the superseding indictment, the DOJ said Azad and Kalkote are accused of participating in a fraud ring from 2019 to 2020 which operated out of various cities including Houston. The scheme allegedly targeted elderly victims throughout the United States and elsewhere.
According to the charges, the ring tricked and deceived victims using various ruses like providing computer technical support services, and instructing 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.
Victims typically paid a fee to conspirators for the alleged technical support but were later told they were due a refund, according to the charges. 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. The indictment alleges victims were sometimes re-victimized multiple times and threatened with bodily harm if they did not pay.
Upon conviction, both Kalkote and Azad each face up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.
Three other Indians — Sumit Kumar Singh, 24, Himanshu Kumar, 24, and Md. Hasib, 26 — who illegally resided in Houston have already pleaded guilty to the scheme and are awaiting sentencing. They remain in custody, along with Kalkote and Azad, pending further criminal proceedings.