Indian citizen admits role in nationwide fraud scheme targeting elderly victims through fake technical support

HOUSTON – A 25-year-old Indian citizen has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani announced Monday.

Anirudha Kalkote admitted he participated in a fraud ring from 2019-2020, which operated out of various cities, including Houston. The scheme targeted elderly victims throughout the United States and elsewhere, according to prosecutors.

The ring tricked and deceived victims using various ruses and instructed them to send money via wire through a money transmitter business such as Western Union or MoneyGram, by buying gift cards and providing to the fraudsters or by mailing cash to alias names via FedEx or UPS.

Part of the scheme involved fraudsters contacting victims by phone or via internet sites for computer technical support and directing victims to a particular phone number. Once victims contacted the fraudsters, they were told various stories such as they were communicating with an expert that needed remote access to their computer in order to provide technical support services. The fraudsters then gained access to victims’ personal data and bank and credit card information.

Victims typically paid a fee to conspirators for the fake technical support but were later told they were due a refund. Through paying for “technical support” or through the “refund” process, the ring gained access to the victim’s bank account(s) and credit cards and manipulated the accounts to make it appear the victim was paid too large a refund due to a typographical error, according to prosecutors. Victims were then instructed to reimburse the ring by various means.

Victims were sometimes re-victimized multiple times and threatened with bodily harm if they did not pay.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt accepted the plea and set sentencing for June 26. At that time, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.

Four others have already pleaded guilty in relation to the scheme and are awaiting sentencing April 20. MD Azad, 26, Sumit Kumar Singh, 25, Himanshu Kumar, 25, and MD Hasib, 27 are Indian nationals who illegally resided in Houston.

All five individuals remain in custody pending sentencing.