Federal agents busted an elaborate credit card fraud scheme this week involving eight Queens men and three others who allegedly used fake identities to obtain credit cards and mortgages — and steal $3 million in cash and merchandise.
Federal prosecutors said the 11 defendants were named in five criminal complaints connected to the “bust out” operation, according to U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue. Three of the suspects were additionally booked for concocting a money laundering operation designed to cover the scheme’s tracks.
The U.S. Attorney’s office identified the Queens suspects as Mohammed Akhtar, 43, of Flushing; Shaila Khondkar, 48, of Jamaica; Bahader Thiara, 42, and Perminder Thiara, 40, both of Queens Village; Nadezhda Epshteyn, 44, and Cyrus Shroff, 45, both of Rockaway Park; Zainoelbaks Karimbux, 50, of Bellerose; and Daljeet Singh (a.k.a. Akhtar Iqbal), 46, of College Point.
Also charged in the cases were Brooklyn’s Hafeez Ali 54, and Anis Khan, 32, and Bronx resident Gursimardeep Singh, 34.
Singh and Karimbux were charged but remain at large as of press time, according to sources with the U.S. Attorney’s office. The other nine suspects were arrested on June 26; eight of them were released on bond following their arraignment in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.
“As alleged, the defendants operated a ‘bust out’ scheme using fraudulently obtained credit cards to finance expenses, ranging from furniture to real estate, and totaling $3 million,” Donoghue said. “Together with our law enforcement partners, we stand committed to protecting financial institutions from fraud.”
Federal prosecutors said the bust out took place between January 2013 and December 2017. The participants created fake identities using various types of personal information, such as names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers to successfully obtain credit cards and financial institutions. Once they received the cards, they used them to make various purchases.
According to law enforcement sources, the suspects even used the fake identities to obtain mortgages to purchase three Queens homes. They also created shell companies, which conduct virtually no legitimate business, to record hundreds of thousands of dollars in sham transactions for which financial institutions ultimately paid them.
Bahader Thiara, Ali, Akhtar, Epshteyn, Shroff, Khan, Daljeet Singh, Karimbux and Gursimardeep Singh were each charged with access device fraud. Bahader and Perminder Thiara, along with Shaila Khondkar, were additionally charged with money laundering conspiracy.
Each defendant faces up to 10 to 20 years in federal prison if convicted of the charges, federal prosecutors said.
“Those arrested allegedly engaged in fraudulent activities aided by shell companies and collusive merchants to carry out their ‘bust out’ schemes and the laundering of its proceeds, defrauding financial institutions of millions of dollars,” said Angel M. Melendez, special agent-in-charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York. “As revealed in this investigation, synthetic identity fraud is ever evolving in sophistication and frequency, creating more challenges for law enforcement and anti-money laundering professionals.”