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Indian-American gets 9-year jail for multi-million fraud

Washington, March 3 (IANS) An Indian-American man has been sentenced to nine years in federal prison for a multi-million dollar fraud scheme.

Amit Chaudhry, 44, from Ashburn, Virginia, pleaded guilty on September 21 last year to identity theft, money laundering and visa fraud.

“I never really dreamt of being a felon. This is going to haunt me for the rest of my life,” Chaudhry said in Alexandria federal court on Thursday before being sentenced, the Washington Post reported.

According to the report, Chaudhry, who emigrated from India in 1992, helped his relatives overseas to operate a multimillion-dollar scam that involved money laundering from stolen credit cards and identities through shell bank accounts.

He was also part of a related scheme, advertising cheap travel packages. Clients’ money would be stolen and their hotel and airfare would be paid for with stolen credit cards.

They also made more than $25 million off fake credit cards with the help of a co-conspirator working at American Express in India, the Washington Post report said.

The group also used images of fake passports.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) uncovered the scheme in part when an agent recognised a photo in one passport as actress Laura Vandervoot. The photo was taken from a scene of her television show “V” involving visas.

“What we’re dealing with here is not a casual wrong turn,” said Jeffrey Abish, the chief information officer for the defrauded company ActioNet.

Chaudhry sent inflated and imagined IT invoices to the company, netting $4.1 million that he has now pledged to repay, according to the report.

Defence attorney Danny Onorato told The Post that “this was all done out of family loyalty”.

Onorato added that Chaudhry has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, which might help explain his behaviour.

However, Assistant US Attorney Katherine Wong protested Onorato’s argument, saying: “Asperger’s doesn’t cause anyone to steal or open credit card accounts in someone else’s name.”

Chaudhry is cooperating with authorities, who are still finding more victims and tracking down co-conspirators in the US and abroad.

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