Indian-American jewelry store owners sentenced for massive credit card fraud

Washington (PTI): Two Indian-American jewelry store owners have been sentenced by a New Jersey court in a US$200-million international credit card fraud scheme.

Vijay Verma, 49, and Tarsem Lal, 78, owners of a jewelry store in New Jersey, have been sentenced to 14 months in prison and 12 months of home confinement, respectively, Acting US Attorney William E Fitzpatrick said.

Both had earlier pleaded guilty to the charges.

Verma and Lal were indicted in October 2013 as part of a scheme to fabricate more than 7,000 false identities to obtain tens of thousands of credit cards.

According to court documents, participants in the scheme doctored credit reports to pump up the spending and borrowing power associated with the cards.

They then borrowed or spent as much as they could, based on the phony credit history, but did not repay the debts causing more than US$200 million in confirmed losses to businesses and financial institutions, federal prosecutors alleged.

These debts were incurred at Verma’s jewelry store, among many other locations, where Verma would allow fraudulently obtain credit cards to be swiped in phony transactions, court papers said.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Verma and Lal each admitted allowing others who came to their Jersey City, New Jersey, store to swipe cards they knew did not legitimately belong to them.

Verma and Lal would then split the proceeds of the phony transactions with these other conspirators.

In addition to the prison terms, Judge Thompson sentenced Verma to three years of supervised release and Lal to three years of probation.

Each of them have been fined US$5,000 and ordered to pay forfeiture of US$451,259.