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16 Indian origin people indicted for running a scam in United States

The ring accused of larceny defrauded hundreds of consumers and costing the individuals, financial institutions and retail businesses more than USD 3.5 million in losses over the course of the massive scam

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Prison bars. Representational image. Flickr
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New York, March 10, 2017: 16 Indian origin people were arrested for being a part of Identity theft ring which is allegedly responsible for cheating and stealing personal credit information of hundreds of individuals in the United States, reported PTI.

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All the 30 members of the group were arrested in a major crackdown by the US authorities and were charged with criminal offenses such as Theft, fraud, Burglary, etc.

The ring accused of larceny defrauded hundreds of consumers and costing the individuals, financial institutions and retail businesses more than USD 3.5 million in losses over the course of the massive scam.

Muhammad Rana, 40, of Queens in New York was the leader of the gang who was aided by his deputy Inderjeet Singh (24).

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Other Indian origins charged in the multiple-count indictment are:

Sonam Kukreja (26),

Balwinder Singh (36),

Ranjeet Singh (30),

Ankit Chadha (29),

Kamaljot Singh (24),

Tanveer Sidhu (25),

Gaurav Chhabra (33),

Pradeep Grover (46),

Gurbachan Singh (55),

Shingara Singh (28),

Sukhjinder Singh (32),

Tajinder Singh (25),

Vinny Maksudpuri (age not given), Queens.

and Varinder Singh (27) of 118th Street in Richmond Hill, Queens.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said yesterday many of the defendants charged are blamed for continuing shopping binges, acquiring a huge number of dollars, top of the line gadgets and fashion merchandise with forged credit cards that contained the record data of bank accounts of the unsuspecting consumers.

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As part of their alleged scheme, the defendants ordered new credit cards for cardholders and stole them out of the cardholders’ mailboxes when they were delivered, Brown added.

Brown further added that to get a nab at the fraudsters in this massive scam, 24 search warrants were executed earlier this week throughout Queens and Nassau Counties and numerous items recovered including USD 400,000 in cash, numerous gold coins and gold bars valued at about USD 1,300 dollars each – binders with the personal information of hundreds of thousands of individuals, firearms, card readers and various amounts of raw material, such as blank credit cards and fake identifications.

389 criminal charges have been levelled against the defendants accusing them of being members and partners of an organized criminal endeavor functioned in Queens between April 2015 and January 2017.

The probe leading to the indictments and arrests began in April 2015 when police officers assigned to the Police Department’s Identity Theft Squad commenced the investigation into an identity theft ring.

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As reported by PTI, the probe into the matter went through strenuous investigation over various modes and intel involving physical surveillance, intelligence gathering, and court authorised electronic eavesdropping on dozens of different telephones in which thousands of conversations were intercepted, which required them to be translated from Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and Spanish into English.

The gang contoured the scam with each precise details of the victims, which were gathered by gang member Ranvie Seepersad as a ”profile supplier”. He obtained the “profiles” information such as a victim’s name, date of birth, current and past addresses, social security number, current and past employment information, phone numbers, bank and credit card account numbers by stealing the financial information himself.

After the profiles were received by the gang, the information was then provided to an “account activator,” who then compiled and organized the information, prepared the accounts to be taken over and, in some cases, actually took over the accounts by calling into banks and impersonating the true cardholders.

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Rana provided their associates in the crime with the stolen credit cards, alongside the counterfeit identity proofs for them to shop. He guided them as to which electronics, top of the line jewelry and gift cards to purchase.

-prepared by Ashish Srivastava of NewsGram Twitter @PhulRetard

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Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)