Haryana man sentenced for stealing $150k from elderly woman in US

New York:  An Indian national hailing from Haryana has been sentenced to more than four years in prison for his role in stealing $150,000 from an elderly woman in the US state of Montana.

Sukhdev Vaid, 24, admitted targeting elderly Americans via an international computer-hacking scheme that resulted in more than $1.2 million in total losses, US Attorney Jesse Laslovich said on Wednesday.

The court ordered that upon his release from custody, Vaid will be remanded to the Bureau of Customs and Immigration Enforcement for deportation, and asked him to pay $1,236,470 restitution.

“It has become all too common for people outside of our country to victimise Montanans, especially as it relates to wire fraud, and get away with it. But not this time. Vaid is going to federal prison,” Attorney Laslovich said.

“‘Phantom Hacker’ scams layer imposter tech support, financial, and government personas to gain access to someone’s computer and personal information. Sadly, these scams are increasingly targeting our seniors,” said Special Agent in Charge Shohini Sinha of the Salt Lake City, FBI

Sinha said what added to the depravity of the case was that the scammer traveled overseas to collect the victim’s money in person.

The government alleged in court documents that a large enterprise originating from India was involved in stealing $1,236,470 from elderly Americans.

The Montana case arose in February 2023, when Glacier Bank notified the FBI that Jane Doe, a 73-year-old woman in Kalispell, had been defrauded.

The fraudsters tricked Jane Doe into giving them money through a pop-up notice that appeared on Jane Doe’s computer screen.

The notice explained that Jane Doe had been “hacked” and for her to call a number for customer support.

Jane Doe complied, and fraudsters directed her to remove cash from her bank accounts for safekeeping at the “Fed”. She gave $150,000 in cash to the fraudsters.

After learning of the scam, the FBI set up a ruse in which Jane Doe told the fraudsters she still had $50,000 in cash.

The FBI arrested Vaid, along with his co-defendant, Eddly Joseph, of Gainesville, Florida, when they traveled to Montana to collect the money.

The investigation determined that the fraudsters remotely accessed Jane Doe’s computer, using UltraViewer, which they installed on her computer.

Joseph was sentenced previously to two years and nine months in prison for his conviction in the case.

“To protect yourself, never click on unsolicited pop-ups, links sent by text message or email, don’t download software at the request of someone you don’t know, and always remember that the government and law enforcement will never call and ask you for money,” FBI’s Sinha said in a statement.

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