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Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.

District Attorney, New York County

For Immediate Release
December 12, 2014

DA VANCE: TRAVEL AGENTS INDICTED FOR SCAM THAT LEFT HUNDREDS OF TRAVELERS STRANDED

Many Victims Arrived at the Airport and Were Prevented From Traveling Due to Invalid Tickets; Approximately 200 Victims Lost More Than $1 Million in Total Due to Alleged Scheme

Example of fake ad placed in newspaper

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the indictment of 10 individuals connected to a commercial travel scam in which the defendants, using credit card information obtained illegally, were able to steal more than $1 million in total from approximately 200 victims. As a result, this fraudulent activity disrupted many victims’ long-planned international travel, in some cases preventing them from attending weddings or visiting sick family members. The defendants are each charged in an indictment in New York State Supreme Court with varying counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Identity Theft in the First Degree, and Scheme to Defraud, among other charges.[1]

“During the holiday season when so many people are traveling to visit their families at great personal expense, it is especially important to be on high alert for scam artists and cybercriminals,” warned District Attorney Vance. “This alleged scheme left a pregnant woman stranded during a multi-part trip, forced relatives to miss a family wedding abroad, and made it impossible for a son to visit his cancer-stricken father in India. I encourage individuals to report this type of fraud by calling my Cybercrime & Identity Theft Hotline at 212-335-9600.”

According to the indictment and statements made on the record in court, between June 2012 and November 2014, the defendants are accused of operating a business involving multiple incorporated travel agencies—including Bombay Travel and Tours, Raj Travel, Gandhi Travel, Patel Travel and Maha Guru Travel—and several bank accounts that were fraudulently opened in the name of the aforementioned travel agencies, using falsified passports and licenses. The defendants placed advertisements in predominately Indian-American publications throughout the U.S. and purported to offer competitively priced tickets to and from popular destinations in India. 

Travelers seeking assistance with arrangements were instructed to provide names, passport numbers, and flight information, and deposit payment checks directly into bank accounts controlled by the defendants. However, in lieu of using customers’ checks to pay for tickets, the defendants pocketed the money and instead used stolen credit card information—including that of American Express, Citibank, and Discover card holders—to buy the tickets that were later sent to their customers. When travelers arrived at the airport for their scheduled trips, many were informed that their tickets had been cancelled, or that they would not be able to travel using the illegally purchased tickets, for which they had already paid thousands of dollars to the defendants.

Among others, victims of the travel scam included a woman who was seven-months-pregnant and unable to complete a leg of her scheduled trip, family members who were not able to attend a relative’s wedding, and an individual who was prevented from visiting a sick father in India. 

Assistant District Attorney Robert Shull is handling the prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Brenda Fischer, Chief of the Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau; and Executive Assistant District Attorney David Szuchman, Chief of the Investigation Division.  Rackets Investigator Jamie Mercier-Blanchard, Investigator Andrew Lee, Investigator Steven Kay, Supervising Investigator Jonathan Reid, Assistant District Attorney Kenn Kern, Chief of Staff to the Investigative Division; and Mark Frassetto assisted with the investigation.  Senior Cybercrime Analyst Christina Chen, Cybercrime Analyst Daniel Mueller, and Intelligence Specialist David Corbin are also assisting with the case.

District Attorney Vance also thanked Special Agent Michael Navratil from the United States Secret Service and Special Agent Kevin Falk from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for their assistance with the investigation, as well as Bank of America and American Express.

Defendant Information:

SADAQAT ALI, D.O.B. 7/19/1966
Bronx, NY

Charged:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 3 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 3 counts
  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 7 counts
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

SUMIT CHAWLA, D.O.B. 9/21/1972
Pakistan

Charged:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 3 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 3 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

ZUBAIR DAR, D.O.B. 4/28/1965
Queens, NY

Charged:

Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 4 counts

  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 5 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 5 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 2 counts
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

SARFRAZ KHAN, D.O.B. 8/16/1963
Queens, NY

Charged:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 4 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 5 counts
  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 7 counts
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

SHAH NAWAZ KIANI, D.O.B. 3/29/1985
Pakistan

Charged:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 3 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 3 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

MUHAMMAD ASIF, D.O.B. 4/1/2982
Pakistan

Charged:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 4 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 5 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 5 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 2 counts
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

CHAUDHARY MUHAMMAD ARIF, D.O.B. 3/30/1958
Brooklyn, NY

Charged:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 3 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

RANA MUHAMMAD TARIQ, D.O.B. 4/1/1982
Pakistan

Charged:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 4 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 5 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 5 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

JOHN DOE #2,
Queens, NY

Charged:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 3 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

MANJEET SINGH, A/K/A SHAMMIN TAMANA, D.O.B. 4/26/1974
Queens, NY

Charged:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 4 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 5 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

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