Two Indian-origin men arrested for committing visa fraud in US

New York, Dec 30 (IANS): Two Indian-origin men have been arrested and charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit visa fraud in the US.

Rambhai Patel, 36, and Balwinder Singh, 39, allegedly staged armed robberies so that “victims” could apply for immigration benefits, the US Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts said on Friday.

Patel was arrested in Seattle on December 13, 2023, and following an initial appearance in the Western District of Washington, he was ordered detained pending trial.

Singh was also arrested on the same day in Queens, and had his initial appearance in the Eastern District of New York.

While Singh appeared in federal court in Boston on Friday afternoon, Patel is expected to appear at a later date in the same court.

According to the charging documents, beginning March 2023, Patel and his co-conspirators, including at times Singh, set up and carried out staged armed robberies.

These were carried out at 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).

A 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 the course of the alleged 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 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 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.

Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the US Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law, the attorney's office said.




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