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Indian-American charged in $13 mn tech scam targeting over 7000 victims

Darpan News Desk IANS, 01 Sep, 2023 01:12 PM
  • Indian-American charged in $13 mn tech scam targeting over 7000 victims

New York, Sep 1 (IANS) A 40-year-old Indian-American has been arrested in connection with a technical support scam that targeted more than 7,000 victims in the US.

Manoj Yadav of Clifton in New Jersey, defrauded victims -- consisting mainly of small business owners and the elderly -- of more than $13 million, US Attorney Philip R Sellinger announced on Thursday.

He was charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and appeared before US Magistrate Judge Jose R. Almonte in Newark federal court on Thursday.

"The defendant and his conspirators are alleged to have misled their numerous victims into thinking that they were a legitimate technology support company affiliated with a major software company," Sellinger said.

"After claiming to provide technical support for issues involving the software company’s popular accounting software, they allegedly charged the victims exorbitant fees for purported support services that were not authorized by the software company," he added.

According to court documents, from 2017 through 2023, Yadav and his conspirators, many of whom were in India, fraudulently held themselves out as a technology support company affiliated with a major US business and accounting software company that developed and sold a widely used accounting software product.

They operated under multiple fraudulent business names, including "Phebs Software Services, LLC", "Phebs Software Services", "PN Bookkeeping Services", "Phebbs Consulting", "Quickbooks Tech Assist", "Quickbook US", "Quickbooks Accounting", and "Quickbooks Support Team".

The conspirators would contact victims under the guise of fixing victims' technical issues with the accounting software. After receiving tech support from the conspirators under these fraudulent pretences, the victims would either be charged exorbitant fees or additional subscription fees. These "services" were all fraudulent: They would not cost any additional money for customers who contacted the actual software company, and the software company never authorised Yadav or his conspirators to act on its behalf or charge any fees.

Yadav personally participated in the scheme by charging the victims for the fraudulent technology support services and funnelling millions of dollars from these victims to his conspirators.

He fraudulently obtained these funds through the Phebs Software Services, LLC, which Yadav himself formed. That entity did business as both "Phebs Software Services" and "Quickbooks Accounting".

Yadav also used these entity names to falsely hold himself out to banks and victim customers as an accounting company legitimately affiliated with the software company. He did this to prevent chargebacks, Better Business Bureau complaints, and the closure of bank accounts.

Yadav sent his conspirators over $13 million in funds obtained from victims and would routinely keep approximately 17 per cent when he wired funds to the conspirators.

"We allege Yadav lied to software users and forced them to pay for services that would usually come free with their initial purchase," FBI Special Agent in Charge James E Dennehy said. "The amount he's accused of stealing from his victims and the number of victims seem shocking."

The count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross profit or loss caused by the offence, whichever is greatest.

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