Thursday, October 1, 2009

Man Charged in Immigration and Real Estate Fraud

Posed as ICE Agent; Stole $1 Million from Nearly a Dozen Victims

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, joined by Port Authority Police Superintendent Michael A. Fedorko, held a press conference on Tuesday to announce that a Queens resident posing as a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) federal government agent has been charged with defrauding nearly a dozen members of Queens County’s West Indian community out of more than $1 million. The defendant allegedly promised to assist them in obtaining “federally seized” properties at cheap prices or to help them get legal status in this country.

The defendant has been identified as Shane Ramsundar, 49, of 101-35A 120th Street in Richmond Hill, He is presently awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court in Kew Gardens, and is charged in two criminal complaints involving eleven alleged victims with the crimes of second-degree grand larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud and first-degree criminal impersonation of a public servant. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

“Our immigrant community can be especially vulnerable to deception and fraud,” said District Attorney Brown, “when someone promises to help them navigate the process of obtaining the necessary documents to work and remain in the United States or get ahead by dealing in real estate.”

The DA explained that immigrants are often in a situation where they are earning very little money, having to work at more than one job. People put their faith and their finances in the hands of Ramsundar. According to DA Brown he “turned their American Dream into the American nightmare by ripping them off. They now face an uncertain future.”

Port Authority Police Superintendent Fedorko commented on the effectiveness of the investigation. “This is a classic case of good police work begetting good police work. Earlier this year, Detective Dewan Maharaj worked a great case involving an immigration scam. The hard work and integrity he brought to that investigation led victims in this case to come forward and seek his aid. The Port Authority Police Department responded with a careful and thorough investigation and I congratulate all of our PAPD officers on an excellent arrest.”

According to one of the complainants, Pete Baldeo, the owner of a tattoo parlor located at 127- 03 101st Avenue in Richmond Hill, Queens, met Ramsundar in May 2008 after employing his teenage daughter at the store, which is a neighborhood gathering place for West Indian nationals.

At the time, Ramsundar allegedly identified himself as an agent for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) who was on loan to the FBI and Homeland Security as an undercover agent. Ramsundar allegedly showed Baldeo a Homeland Security badge and a black automatic handgun which he wore on his hip. It is alleged that Ramsundar told Baldeo and others in Baldeo’s presence, that he could use his insider access to get people green cards, have them removed from deportation lists and even get them off “terrorist watch lists” in exchange for sums of money.

For example, it is alleged that Samih Zabib, who is in the United States legally under the country’s amnesty program, met with Ramsundar in February 2008. Zabib allegedly hadreceived notice that his work authorization was not being renewed and he was petrified at being deported after raising his family and operating a business here for 22 years.

Ramsundar allegedly told Zabib that he could get him, a friend and a relative permanent legal status in the form of resident alien cards, though it would cost $42,000 and a one-time money order “processing fee” for $1,010 made out to U.S. Immigration and Customs. It is alleged that the money order was never cashed but merely requested so that it would appear that Ramsundar was legitimately processing the applications.

Ramsundar allegedly told Zabib he should act fast because he was from Lebanon and was now on the top of the terrorist watch list to be deported. It is alleged that due to Ramsundar’s threats of imminent deportation, Zabib decided not to go to court but instead provide Ramsundar with his actual immigration documents, his identifying and immigration paperwork and a total of $43,010 in cash in order for him to stop their deportation and enhance their immigration statuses.

When Zabib questioned Ramsundar why he had not received any official communications from the U.S. government, Ramsundar allegedly provided him with a phony case number that he could use to log onto the Immigration website. Zabib and the two others have never received any change in status from the U.S. government.

The complaint further alleges that Ramsundar repeatedly claimed to be able to help other victims with various immigration problems, including fixing expired tourist and student visas and, in one instance, offering to help a man who feared deportation following a divorce from his wife who was an American citizen. He allegedly told all of his victims he could obtain permanent resident status for them in exchange for large sums of money. In total, Ramsundar allegedly received a total of $237,030 from eight victims.

In a second complaint, Ramsundar is alleged to have stolen a total of $855,000 from four individuals – including one he allegedly defrauded in the immigration scam – through two real estate deals. In his guise as an ICE agent, Ramsundar allegedly informed Baldeo and Zabib that he could gain access to federally seized real estate properties in Florida, which they could purchase for minimal fees and then sell for large profits. Further allegations state that he showed Baldeo photographs of several houses and even planned a trip so they could view the properties and attend the closings but cancelled the trip at the last minute. It is alleged that Baldeo and Zabib paid Ramsundar $445,000 and $210,000, respectively, in cash and checks and never received title or ownership documents for the promised real estate.

The complaint further alleges that, in March 2007, Kowlessar Mahadeo and Ramish Ramcharran met with Ramsundar, who claimed he worked for the FBI. Ramsundar allegedly drove them around Queens and showed them residential properties that purportedly had been seized by the federal government. Having agreed to purchase the Queens properties and one in Florida, it is alleged that Mahadeo and Ramcharran signed three actual contractual agreements entitled “co-purchasing agreements” and “confidential agreement,” which had been provided by the defendant and listed the amounts they had to pay Ramsundar. In total, Ramsundar allegedly received $92,000from Mahadeo purportedly for the properties and a government-seized Mercedes Benz, and $108,000 from Ramcharran for the properties. Neither man received any title to, or ownership or possession of the properties or car.

District Attorney Brown said that today’s case was initiated when its alleged victims read press reports last month about the sentencing of Port Authority janitorial worker Nazim (“Tony”) Hosein who had defrauded five members of the West Indian community by promising to expedite and produce legitimate green cards and other U.S. documents after collecting a total of nearly $100,000 from them. As a result of that unrelated case, the alleged victims in the instant case contacted the Port Authority Police with information about Ramsundar.

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