Former Eastern Shore Resident Sentenced to Over Five Years in Federal Prison for Conspiracy to Sell Over $ 3.5 Million in Stolen Goods and Tax Evasion | USAO-MD
Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake today sentenced Saurabh Chawla, 36, of Aurora, Colorado, to 66 months in federal prison, followed by three years on probation for conspiracy, interstate transportation of property thefts and tax evasion. Judge Blake ordered Chawla to pay restitution to the Internal Revenue Service in the amount of $ 713,619 and signed a forfeiture order demanding that Chawla relinquish a 2013 Tesla Model S and $ 2,308,062.61 on accounts held in his name and on the sale of a property in Aurora, Colorado. .
The sentence was announced by the Acting United States Attorney General for the District of Maryland, Jonathan F. Lenzner; Acting Special Agent in Charge Darrell J. Waldon of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Washington, DC Field Office; and the Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore.
According to his guilty plea and other court documents, from 2009 to 2019, Chawla purchased more than $ 3.5 million in stolen goods from people with “insider” access to goods and commodities, so that ‘They can steal the items and sell them in Chawla without being detected. . Chawla initially sold goods and merchandise on eBay through thecheetahexpress, eurotronics_4_less and eurotronics-4-less eBay stores; the latter two were associated with Chawla’s parents. Around April 27, 2014, eBay suspended thecheetahexpress and eurotronics_4_less stores from their eBay operations because “recent account activity raised serious security concerns.”
“Saurabh Chawla coordinated a $ 3.5 million program – buying items from co-conspirators he knew had been stolen, including electronics meant to help underprivileged school children in New Mexico, and selling them for personal gain, ”Acting United States Attorney Jonathan said. F. Lenzner. “To add insult to injury, Chawla underreported his income on his tax returns and aided in a parent’s tax evasion, causing a tax loss totaling over $ 700,000 to the US government. These are not victimless crimes. This criminal behavior deceives all honest businesses and taxpayers who play by the rules. Hopefully this conviction sends the message that we will continue to coordinate with our law enforcement partners to bring these criminals to justice. “
“This lawsuit shows what law enforcement agencies are capable of achieving when we work together. Criminals and those who refuse to obey the laws stand no chance against a unified team of dedicated officers and agents working towards a common goal, ”said James Mancuso, special agent in charge of the HSI field office at Baltimore. “HSI will continue to partner with our friends in law enforcement to keep our communities safe and to pursue justice for the victims of these crimes. “
“When criminals like Chawla traffic stolen goods and willfully under-report their income to evade taxes, we all lose,” said Darrell J. Waldon, acting special agent in charge of the IRS’s field office. CI in Washington DC. “Taxes pay for services, and criminal schemes like this undermine the integrity of our country’s tax system. We will continue to work with our investigative partners to put an end to these divisive schemes and to fulfill our mission to ensure the integrity and fairness of our tax system.
Shortly thereafter, and until law enforcement executed search warrants in 2019, Chawla convinced James Bender, who was a good friend of the university, to allow him to sell goods and merchandise online through eBay accounts controlled by Bender in exchange for Chawla paying him a commission. Bender controlled and operated several eBay and Amazon online accounts, including “HiddenGemFurniture” (“HGF”), which was registered in Person A’s name, “EddiesAffensibleGear” (“EAG”) and “AffordableGoodies4You” (“AG “). Bender used, operated and controlled a PayPal account ending in 4211 (“PayPal 4211”), which was linked to HGF, EAG and AG. Over time, Chawla offered and sold a large amount of stolen goods and merchandise for sale through HGF, other eBay stores, and other online marketplaces. At one point, Chawla had 400 active listings for goods and products on eBay.
As detailed in the plea agreements, Chawla purchased Apple products from Kristy Stock from 2012 to 2018. Stock was a New Mexico public school employee responsible for overseeing a program to provide Apple iPods to schoolchildren in the region. purpose to benefit underprivileged Native American children of New Mexico. . Stock stole over 3,000 iPods purchased by the school district and sold them to Chawla. Chawla first bought the iPods from Stock on eBay, and then they dealt directly with each other, through emails, texts, and phone calls. Stock repeatedly informed Chawla of the items she had obtained, providing details such as the model, color and number of Apple products available. Chawla and Stock then negotiated a price, and Stock shipped the items to Chawla’s relative on the east coast of Maryland. Chawla paid Stock via PayPal. Stock admitted that she received over $ 800,000 in illegal proceeds from the sale of stolen iPods valued at over $ 1 million. In 2019, Chawla purchased Apple products that he said had been stolen by someone else working in a different school district in New Mexico, including 25 iPads for $ 5,000 in May 2019. After his parent received the stolen goods, Chawla put them up for sale online through eBay at a substantial mark-up.
According to the plea agreements, from 2009 to 2019, Chawla also purchased large quantities of merchandise from former FedEx employee Joseph Kukta, who obtained most of the items he sold to Chawla from purchases in wholesale shipped via FedEx for delivery to FedEx customers, including a Walmart. Distribution center in Smyrna, Delaware. Kukta was able to steal the goods in such a way that FedEx never detected the crime, and Kukta then delivered the goods and stolen goods to Chawla’s relative in Maryland. Kukta sent Chawla “weekly lists of goods and available goods”, and Chawla usually paid 50% of the retail price of goods and goods that Kukta had stolen. As with Stock, Chawla sold Kukta’s goods and merchandise to eBay customers at significant mark-ups (often at a price increase of 100%). In total, Chawla paid Kukta over $ 1.5 million for goods and merchandise which Chawla resold for over $ 3 million.
In pursuit of the fraud scheme, Chawla and Bender have repeatedly deceived online platforms such as Amazon, eBay, as well as manufacturers and distributors, as to the source of the goods and merchandise sold, including iPods. that Stock flew to New Mexico. school district and the property and merchandise that Kukta stole from FedEx Delaware facilities. Chawla and Bender have repeatedly fabricated deceptions and caused the presentation of false information to disguise the true origins of goods and merchandise offered online. For example, in May 2014, Chawla tricked Kukta into creating a fake invoice containing false information about the parties involved in the transaction and the price paid per unit purchased. As part of his participation in the fraud scheme, Bender received more than $ 10,000 per year from eBay sales of stolen goods and merchandise.
Chawla further admitted in his plea agreement that he filed false income tax returns for the 2009 to 2017 tax years, falsely inflating the cost of goods sold and expenses of his businesses and underreporting his gross income. adjusted and tax due. As a result, Chawla agreed that he had not paid at least $ 640,000 in additional taxes owed for the 2009 to 2017 tax years.
From 2009 to 2017, Chawla also knowingly aided and abetted his parent’s tax evasion crimes and therefore Chawla is responsible for the tax losses resulting from his parent’s tax evasion. This primarily involved the underreporting of Cheetah Express parent’s $ 60,000 per year salary, resulting in a tax loss of over $ 70,000.
In total, Chawla caused a tax loss of over $ 700,000 in the United States on the income of Chawla and her relative.
Co-conspirators Kristy Stock, 46, of Waterflow, New Mexico, James Edward Bender, 36, of Baltimore, Md., And Joseph Kukta, 45, of Laurel, Delaware, have pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme. fraud and are awaiting conviction.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the IRS-Criminal Investigation and HSI for their work in the investigation. Mr Lenzner thanked Deputy US Prosecutors Harry M. Gruber and Paul A. Riley, who are pursuing these cases.
For more information on the Maryland US Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and the resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community -outreach.
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