10 indicted for frauding India-bound travelers in the US

Four Pakistani citizens were among the 10 travel agents indicted here for running a fraudulent business and stealing over a million dollar from nearly 200 India-bound travellers, who were left stranded in the US.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced the indictment of the 10 individuals connected to a commercial travel scam in which the agents, using credit card information obtained illegally, were able to steal more than a million dollar from the 200 victims.

The defendants placed advertisements in Indian-American publications throughout the US that offered competitively priced tickets to and from popular destinations in India.

The fraudulent activity disrupted many victims' long- planned international travel and prosecutors said victims of the travel scam included a woman who was seven-months-pregnant and was unable to complete a leg of her scheduled trip, family members who were not able to attend a relative's wedding and an individual who was prevented from visiting a sick father in India.

The defendants, four of whom live in Pakistan, are each charged in an indictment in New York State Supreme Court on varying counts of grand larceny, identity theft and scheme to defraud.

"During the holiday season when so many people are traveling to visit their families at great personal expense, it is especially important to be on high alert for scam artists and cybercriminals," Vance said.

The agents indicted are Sadaqat Ali of Bronx, Sumit Chawla, Shah Nawaz Kiani, Muhammad Asif and Rana Muhammad Tariq of Pakistan, Zubair Dar, Sarfraz Khan and Manjeet Singh of Queens and Muhammad Arif of Brooklyn.

According to the indictment, between June 2012 and November 2014, the agents operated a business involving multiple incorporated travel agencies—including Bombay Travel and Tours, Raj Travel, Gandhi Travel, Patel Travel and Maha Guru Travel—and several bank accounts that were fraudulently opened in the name of the travel agencies, using falsified passports and licenses.

Travelers seeking assistance with arrangements were instructed to provide names, passport numbers, and flight information, and deposit payment checks directly into bank accounts controlled by the travel agents.

However, in place of using customers' checks to pay for tickets, the defendants pocketed the money and instead used stolen credit card information to buy the tickets that were later sent to their customers.

When travelers arrived at the airport for their scheduled trips, many were informed that their tickets had been cancelled, or that they would not be able to travel using the illegally purchased tickets, for which they had already paid thousands of dollars to the defendants.

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