By Howard Koplowitz
Three members of a South Richmond Hill family were indicted last Thursday for allegedly defrauding 19 members of the borough’s West Indian community out of more than $1.75 million ï»¿over six years by either promising to help them obtain federally seized properties in Queens and Florida or assisting them in gaining legal status in the United States, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
To carry out the scheme, the family’s patriarch, Shane Ramsundar, is accused of misrepresenting himself as a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agent on loan to either the FBI or the Joint Terrorism Task Force and as a devoutly religious Pandit, or Hindu religious figure, the DA said.
Ramsundar, 50; his wife, Gomatee Ramsundar, 46; and their daughter, Shantal Ramsundar, 23 — all of 101-35A 120th St. in South Richmond Hill — were arraigned last Thursday in Queens Supreme Court on charges of grand larceny, money laundering, criminal impersonation, scheme to defraud and unlawful sale or possession of an air pistol, Brown said.
Each faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the charges, the DA said.
With the help of his wife and daughter, Shane Ramsundar told his victims he was a federal agent, complete with a real-looking gun, a badge and a fake ID card, who could obtain cheap, government-seized properties in Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Jamaica and Florida, Brown saidï»¿.
Shane Ramsundar and his wife allegedly claimed the government gave special agents the first crack at buying properties seized from tax evaders and drug dealers cheaply before they went to public auction, the DA said.
Shane Ramsundar allegedly told the victims he would purchase properties and obtain mortgages for them with his special government connections and then transfer the deeds over to them so they could live in the homes or resell them at a high profit, Brown said.
Checks given to him were allegedly laundered through 11 different bank accounts — eight of which belonged to Shane and three others belonged to the family’s race car repair company, Baba Boost Racing of Long Island City, Brown said.
The Ramsundars allegedly received $1.5 million from 10 victims in the property scheme, the DA said.
Shane Ramsundar again posed as an ICE or FBI agent and convinced victims he could use his insider access to get them green cards, have them removed from deportation lists and even get them off terrorism watch lists in exchange for cash, the DA said.
His wife allegedly aided him by convincing some of the victims he could obtain the necessary immigration documents and was there when some of the victims turned over their money, Brown said.
Their daughter also allegedly helped out in the scheme by vouching for her father’s claim that he was an ICE agent and by cashing checks and laundering substantial amounts of cash through bank accounts in her name, Brown said.
The family allegedly received more than $250,000 from 12 victims, some of whom were also duped in the real estate scheme, the DA said.
“Our immigrant community here in Queens can be especially vulnerable to deception and fraud when someone promises to help them navigate the process of obtaining the necessary documents to work and remain in the United States or to get ahead by dealing in real estate,” Brown said in a statement. “These victims are alleged to have put their faith and their finances in the hands of the defendants who, in turn, allegedly betrayed them by ripping them off and turning their American Dream into the American Nightmare. They now face an uncertain future.”
Court-authorized search warrants of the Ramsundar home and storage locker turned up contracts and five realistic-looking air guns, the DA said.
The case against the Ramsundars began after the victims read news reports in August 2009 about the sentencing of Port Authority janitorial worker Nazim “Tony” Hosein, a Trinidadian immigrant from Ozone Park who defrauded five West Indians in Queens by promising to expedite and produce legitimate green cards and other U.S. documents after collecting $100,000 from them, Brown said.
As a result, the victims contacted the Port Authority police about Shane Ramsundar, who was arrested in September 2009 on similar charges at last Thursday’s arraignment and had been remanded in that case in lieu of $5 million bail, Brown said.
The charges announced last week stem from Ramsundar’s other case, the DA said.
Hosein was sentenced to up to four years in prison in August.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.