Indian immigrant sentenced to 9 years for identity-theft scheme

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Amit Chaudhry said it was family loyalty that brought him in an international identity theft scheme so vast it ensnared a television actress. “I never really dreamt of being a felon,” the 44-year-old from Ashburn, Virginia, said in Alexandria federal court on Thursday before being sentenced to nine years in prison. “This is going to haunt me for the rest of my life.” On Sept. 21 he pleaded guilty to identity theft and money laundering. He faced up to 20 years in prison.

A native of India, Chaudhry helped relatives overseas operate a multimillion-dollar scam that involved laundering money from stolen credit cards and identities through shell bank accounts. He was part of a related scheme advertising cheap travel packages. Customers’ money would be stolen, and their hotel and airfare would be paid for with stolen credit cards. Many of the more than 1,000 victims found parts of their trips canceled after the fraudulent charges were discovered.

The group made over $25 million off fake credit cards, helped by a co-conspirator working at American Express in India. When their charges were challenged, they would use images of fake passports to back them up.

The scheme was uncovered in part because an FBI agent recognized actress Laura Vandervoort in one of those passports. The image was taken from a scene from the television show “V” involving visas, authorities said. Vandervoort, a Canadian, also played Supergirl on the TV series “Smallville” and last year appeared as the character Indigo on the “Supergirl” series.;

The image, authorities said, helped make clear some of the group’s online behavior. Chaudhry’s attorneys said he was acting at the behest of relatives in India. “This was all done out of family loyalty,” defense attorney Danny Onorato said.