BOSTON – Two men have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Boston on charges they staged armed robberies, including several on the South Shore, to help cashiers get visas through a federal program designed to help immigrant victims of crime.
New York residents Rambhai Patel, 36, and Balwinder Singh, 39, were arrested and charged in December 2023 with carrying out the scam, according to a statement from the Massachusetts division of the U.S. Attorneys Office.
The two were indicted on one count each of conspiracy to commit visa fraud, according to the statement.
Beginning in March of last year, prosecutors said Patel, Singh and others set up and carried out staged armed robberies of at least nine convenience/liquor stores and fast-food restaurants across the country, including at least four along the South Shore, according to the statement.
The robberies were staged at Richdale Food Shops in Hingham on March 22, Michael's Wine & Spirits in Weymouth on June 6, Yogi's Liquors in Marshfield on June 9 and Jimmy's Market & Liquors in Randolph on Sept. 11, according to the U.S. Attorney's statement.
Accused scammers arrested: South Shore robberies faked to achieve immigration status, feds say. Here's how
Others were staged in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Patel was arrested in Seattle on Dec. 13, 2023, and remains detained pending trial. Singh was arrested in Queens, New York, on Dec. 13, 2023, and was released on conditions following an initial appearance on Dec. 28, 2023, according to the statement.
The purpose of the staged robberies was to allow the clerks to claim they were victims of a violent crime on an application for U nonimmigration status, which is better known as a U Visa, officials say.
A U Visa is available to victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and who have been helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.
The person playing the robber would threaten store clerks and/or owners with an apparent firearm before taking cash from the register and fleeing, all of which was captured on store surveillance video, according to the charging documents.
The clerks and/or owners would then wait five or more minutes until the robber had escaped before calling police to report the supposed crime, according to the documents,
The U.S Attorneys Office said the fake victims paid Patel to participate in the scheme.
Prosecutors said one purported victim is accused of paying $20,000 to participate as a victim in one of the staged armed robberies. In turn, Patel is accused of paying the store owners for the use of their stores for the staged robbery.
At least two purported victims submitted U Visa applications based on being victims of the staged armed robberies, according to prosecutors.
The charge of conspiracy to commit visa fraud provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.
Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on sentencing guidelines and statutes that govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
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