A Brooklyn man has pleaded guilty in a U.S. visa scam that targeted members of the Uzbek community in Queens more than half a decade ago.
Olimzhon Turdialiev, 39, of Bay Parkway in Bensonhurst, pleaded guilty Monday, Sept. 12, to criminal possession of stolen property before Queens Supreme Court Justice Toni Cimino. As part of his plea agreement, Turdialiev provided restitution in the amount of $92,000, accounting for nearly 80% of the stolen funds, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.
According to the charges, from September through November 2016, Turdialiev met with four separate Queens residents, all of whom were members of the Uzbek community. At the time, he claimed that he was able to obtain U.S. visas for their relatives that were still living abroad in exchange for cash.
Katz said that upon paying Turdialiev a total of $32,000 in September and October 2016, the first victim was instructed to have her four relatives mail their Uzbek passports and a provided application to an address in Ukraine. Turdialiev later provided a photocopy of one of the visas to the victim. However, the victim’s relative never received either document. It was later discovered that the U.S. The Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) intercepted the package in Moldova containing Uzbekistan passports belonging to the family of the first victim along with fraudulent U.S. visas.
Katz said the second victim paid a total of $49,000 to the defendant on three separate dates for U.S. visas for her two sons and brother living in Uzbekistan. In October 2016, the defendant sent a photocopy to the second victim that appeared to show the passports now containing a valid U.S. visa. However, upon receiving their passports, the relatives abroad determined that the included visas were fraudulent based on the physical appearance of the document.
Also in October 2016, a third victim paid $17,000 to Turdialiev for a U.S. visa for her brother-in-law living in Uzbekistan. The relative abroad was instructed to provide his passport and an application to the defendant’s associate in Uzbekistan. The brother-in-law never received his passport or visa.
In November 2016, a fourth victim provided Turdialiev with $17,000 in cash for a U.S. visa for her brother living in Uzbekistan. The victim accused Turdialiev of fraud when her relative never received his passport after mailing the documents as instructed. In February 2017, Turdialiev agreed to return the Uzbek passport back to the victim but never provided the cash paid.
“The victims, in this case, included members of the immigrant community desperately trying to reunite with their loved ones in America,” Katz said. “Scammers and fraudsters who take advantage of fraught situations for their own financial gain will face justice here in Queens County, no matter how long it has been since the crime took place. In pleading guilty, the defendant has taken responsibility for scamming four individuals who sought a better life for themselves and their loved ones. The defendant has now made restitution and is on notice that his criminal behavior will not be tolerated.”
Turdialiev was indicted by a Queens grand jury in October 2017 on a nine-count indictment charging him with criminal possession of stolen property, two counts of grand larceny, and other crimes but he fled the state shortly afterward. In June, Turdialiev was charged with grand larceny in Clackamas County, Oregon, and was subsequently identified as a defendant in Queens County. Upon resolution of the Oregon case, Turdialiev was extradited back to Queens to face charges.
“Mr. Turdialiev targeted vulnerable people in his own community, betraying their trust for profit,” Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said. “The NYPD and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively pursue anyone who seeks to defraud others, holding them fully accountable for their actions. I want to thank and commend the Office of the Queens District Attorney and our NYPD investigators for their tireless deduction to seeing justice served in this case.”