New York, Feb 13
Two Indian-origin men have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Boston for allegedly staging armed robberies to commit visa fraud in the US state of Massachusetts.
Rambhai Patel, 36, and Balwinder Singh, 39, from New York staged armed robberies so that "victims" could apply for immigration benefits in exchange for thousands of dollars.
The two were indicted last week on one count each of conspiracy to commit visa fraud, according to the US Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts.
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.
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 US, 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 the police to report the "crime".
The "victims" are alleged to have 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.
One purported victim allegedly paid $20,000 to participate as a victim in one of the staged armed robberies.
It is alleged that at least two purported victim co-conspirators submitted U Visa applications based on being victims of the staged armed robberies.
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.
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