Sharanjit Kaur, 36, and Baljit Singh, 47, both of Fresno, California, have been charged in a 46-count Indictment with conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and international money laundering. Both defendants were arrested in Fresno.
The indictment alleges that between July 2010 and June 2011, Kaur and Singh owned and operated several companies based in Fresno, California, for the sole purpose of defrauding hundreds of customers throughout the United States. Kaur and Singh touted to potential customers that their businesses, Consumer Financial Services, Consumer Credit Repair, and Client Financial Services, could provide debt consolidation services. They also falsely promised that they could renegotiate debts with creditors and mortgage lenders, obtain low-interest loans for customers, assist in avoiding lawsuits, lower car payments, replace high-interest credit cards with low-interest ones, and correct errors in credit reports. Kaur and Singh used a call center in India whose employees would call customers using aliases such as “Neil McKenzie” or “Anthony Jones.”
The indictment alleges that after luring customers into using these purported services, Kaur, Singh, and their agents instructed customers to send in monthly payments of $500 or more. Even though they collected regular payments from customers, the defendants did not contact creditors on behalf of customers. Nor were customers informed that the defendants were not in fact providing the promised debt renegotiation services. To mislead customers as to the status of their debts, the defendants sent fake letters from creditors indicating that the customers’ loan modifications had been approved.
When customers would contact the defendants’ companies about late-payment or default notices they had received from their creditors, the defendants and their agents would either hang up on customers or request that customers continue to make service payments to the defendants. Customers sent over $400,000 in payments to the defendants. According to the indictment, Kaur and Singh used the funds received from customers for their own benefit. Kaur and Singh also wired a portion of the funds to an individual in Kolkata, India.
The maximum statutory penalty for each charged offense is 20 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
This case is the product of an extensive investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Fresno Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Grant B. Rabenn is prosecuting the case.
The announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF). President Obama established the interagency FFETF to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch and, with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. One component of the FFETF is the national Mortgage Fraud Working Group, which is tasked with combating mortgage fraud schemes. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
The charges are only allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner who announced the charges said, “The work of our mortgage fraud task force is increasingly geared towards prosecuting those whose victims are homeowners. Fraudsters who prey on distressed homeowners and other indebted consumers will be targeted for prosecution.”