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Indian-origin New York men arrested on charges of 'staging robberies' for visa fraud

Official documents suggested that starting in March 2023, Patel and his co-conspirators, including Singh, set up and carried out staged armed robberies of at least eight convenience or liquor stores and fast food restaurants across the United States, including at least four in Massachusetts.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New York Published on: December 30, 2023 16:41 IST
Representational Image
Image Source : PIXABAY Representational Image

Two Indian-origin men were arrested in New York on charges of visa fraud for allegedly staging armed robberies across the United States so that the victims could apply for immigration benefits under the U-visa, according to authorities. If found guilty, the duo can face a maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $2,50,000.

The two persons were identified as Rambhai Patel (36) and Balwinder Singh (39), who have been charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit visa fraud. They were arrested from Seattle and Queens in New York, on December 13, according to a press release from the US Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts said on Friday.

Official documents suggested that starting in March 2023, Patel and his co-conspirators, including at times Singh, set up and carried out staged armed robberies of at least eight convenience/liquor stores and fast food restaurants across the United States, including at least four in Massachusetts.

“It is alleged that the purpose of the staged robberies was to allow the clerks present to claim that they were victims of a violent crime on an application for U non-immigration status (U Visa),” the statement said.

Following an initial appearance in the Western District of Washington, Patel was ordered detained pending trial while Singh, after his initial appearance in the Eastern District of New York, appeared in federal court in Boston on December 28. Patel is expected to appear in federal court in Boston at a later date, the statement said.

The U-Visa is available to victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and who have been helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. In these allegedly staged robberies, the “robber” would threaten store clerks and/or owners with an apparent firearm before taking cash from the register and fleeing, while the interaction was captured on store surveillance video.

The clerks and/or owners would then wait five or more minutes until the “robber” had escaped before calling the police to report the “crime". "The ‘victims’ are alleged to have each paid Patel to participate in the scheme. In turn, Patel allegedly paid the store owners for the use of their stores for the staged robbery,” the US Attorney's Office said.

The charge of conspiracy to commit visa fraud provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.

(with PTI inputs)

ALSO READ | US: Affluent Indian-origin family of three found dead in Massachusetts, domestic violence suspected

 

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