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Feds arrest four Richmond Hill men in illegal money transfers

Four men from Richmond Hill, two from Forest Hills, one from Bellerose and another from Queens Village are accused of participating in an unlicensed money transfer scheme that involved exporting more than $32 million abroad, federal officials said.

Roslynn Mauskopf, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said last week that two of the suspected members of the transfer plot engaged in another large-scale venture to alter Indian passports to smuggle illegal immigrants into New York City.

"We simply cannot permit the unregulated and unlicensed operation of currency transmitting businesses, particularly in these troubling times," Mauskopf said. "This office will enlist all necessary resources and work with our partners in law enforcement to protect our borders and to search out and close down unlawful money remitting operations wherever we can find them."

Mauskopf identified the defendants arrested May 21 as: Prem Kumar, of 125-16 Jamaica Ave., Jaghoman Singh Sethi of 101-36 111th St., Kulbir Singh Sethi of 101-12 115th St., and Shiv Charan Sharma of 103-27 118th St., all of Richmond Hill; Rakesh Kumar of 102-31 63rd Dr. and Parmod Kumar of 110-24 63rd Ave., both of Forest Hills; Amar Singh of 82-73 251st St. in Bellerose; and Karan Singh Talwar of 9439 212th St. in Queens Village.

Harjit Singh and Amarjit Singh of Suffern, N.Y. were also charged in the scheme, Mauskopf said.

Mauskopf said the defendants are accused of transmitting more than $32 million out of the United States between January 2001 and the present to bank accounts in Singapore, Hong Kong, Latvia, Canada and India. She said the scheme involved converting hard currency into money orders and checks, then sending these funds via a courier service outside the United States.

The prosecutor said the defendants' headquarters was in Jackson Heights. She said anonymous letters sent to the Internal Revenue Service triggered the investigation into the operations, collectively known as the Kumar Organization named after the scheme's suspected ringleader, Rakesh Kumar.

Mauskopf said the letters detailed fictitious business accounts in the names of fraudulent jewelry and trading companies set up at various banks in Queens to be the points from which the defendants would transfer their money. She said the letters claim the Kumar Organization collected money from the Queens community, deposited the funds into the bank accounts and then wired the money to overseas bank accounts.

"This successful investigation marks the end of an illegal, albeit sophisticated, illicit money transfer organization," Special Agent-in-Charge John C. Varrone said. "It has ended their operations involving fraudulent identity documents and the illegal movement of large amounts of money out of the United States."

Rakesh Kumar, Parmod Kumar, Prem Kumar, Harjit Singh, Amarjit Singh, Karan Singh Talwar, Jaghoman Singh Sethi, Kulbir Singh Sethi and Shiv Charan Sharma are charged with conspiring to conduct an unlicensed money remitting business, Mauskopf said.

They each face a maximum of five years in prison, three years supervised release and fines of $250,000 each if convicted.

Additionally, Rakesh Kumar, Parmod Kumar and Amar Singh are charged with conspiring to commit passport/identification fraud. They each face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, three years supervised release and fines of $250,000 if found guilty, Mauskopf said.

Mauskopf said the trio allegedly falsified genuine Indian passports to be used to smuggle illegal immigrants into the United States. She said the scheme involved the three men importing and then altering Indian passports that were shipped to their Jackson Heights headquarters hidden in DVD cases.

Rakesh Kumar is alleged to have conducted the organization's business from three locations, one at 74-22 37th Ave. in Jackson Heights and two other storefronts at 120-19 Jamaica Ave. and 124-12 Jamaica Ave. in Richmond Hill.

The investigation was conducted by the two Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices at John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark/Liberty Airport, Mauskopf said.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156

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