A federal grand jury in Boston has indicted two men of Indian origin for allegedly organizing armed robberies to commit visa fraud in the US state of Massachusetts.
Rambhai Patel, 36, and Balwinder Singh, 39, of New York, staged armed robberies so the “victims” could apply for immigration benefits in exchange for thousands of dollars.
The two were charged last week with one count each of conspiracy to commit visa fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.
Patel was arrested in Seattle on December 13, 2023, and after an initial appearance in the Western District of Washington, he was ordered detained pending trial.
Singh was also arrested the same day in Queens and made his initial appearance in the Eastern District of New York.
According to charging documents, beginning in March 2023, Patel and his accomplices, including Singh at times, organized and carried out armed robberies.
These took place at eight convenience stores/liquor stores and fast food restaurants across the United States, including at least four in Massachusetts.
The purpose of the staged robberies was allegedly to allow employees present to claim that they were victims of a violent crime in an application for U nonimmigration status (U Visa).
The AU visa is available to victims of certain crimes who have suffered physical or mental abuse and who have assisted authorities in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.
In the course of the alleged staged robberies, the “thief” threatened store employees and/or owners with an apparent firearm before taking cash from the register and fleeing, while the interaction was captured on the store surveillance video.
The employees and/or owners would wait five or more minutes until the “thief” had escaped before calling the police to report the “crime.”
The “victims” are alleged to have paid Patel to participate in the scheme. In turn, Patel allegedly paid the store owners for the use of their stores for the simulated robbery.
An alleged victim allegedly paid $20,000 to participate as a victim in one of the organized armed robberies.
At least two alleged accomplice victims are alleged to have filed U Visa applications based on being victims of organized armed robberies.
The charge of conspiracy to commit visa fraud carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.