Long-sought fugitive admits role in $200M credit card fraud

Jeff Goldman reports:

A New York man who had been sought by authorities for nearly four years admitted Tuesday he took part in a scam that defrauded businesses and banks out of more than $200 million.

Habib Chaudhry, 49, of Valley Stream, N.Y., pleaded guilty in federal court in Trenton to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey said in a news release.

Read more on NJ.com.

Yesterday’s press release from the Department of Justice:

A New York man today admitted his role in one of the largest credit card fraud schemes ever charged by the Justice Department, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Habib Chaudhry, 49, of Valley Stream, New York, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson in Trenton federal court to Count One of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Chaudhry was initially charged by complaint in February 2013 and then by indictment in September 2013. Chaudhry had been a fugitive for nearly four years prior to his arrest in January 2017.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Chaudhry was indicted as part of a conspiracy – led by Tahir Lodhi, Babar Qureshi, Ijaz Butt, and others – to fabricate more than 7,000 false identities to obtain tens of thousands of credit cards. Including today’s plea, 20 people have pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme.

The scheme involved a three-step process in which the defendants would make up a false identity by creating fraudulent identification documents and a phony credit profile with the major credit bureaus; pump up the credit of the false identity by providing bogus information about that identity’s creditworthiness; then borrow or spend as much as they could without repaying the debts. The scheme caused more than $200 million in confirmed losses to businesses and financial institutions.

The scope of the criminal fraud enterprise required the conspirators to construct an elaborate network of false identities. Across the country, the conspirators maintained more than 1,800 “drop addresses,” including houses, apartments and post office boxes, which they used as the mailing addresses for the false identities.

Chaudhry admitted that he worked with others to obtain fraudulent credit cards in the names of false identities, that he directed that these fraudulent credit cards be mailed to addresses he controlled, and that he and others made charges using these credit cards with no intention of paying back the debts.

The conspiracy to commit bank fraud charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 20, 2017.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI’s Cyber Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, with the investigation. He also thanked postal inspectors with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James V. Buthorn, Newark Division, special agents of the U.S. Secret Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Mark McKevitt, and the U.S. Social Security Administration for their assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zach Intrater and Daniel Shapiro of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit, as well as Assistant U.S.
Attorney Sarah Devlin of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit.

This case was brought in coordination with the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.stopfraud.gov.

Defense counsel: Jerome Ballarotto Esq., Trenton

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