A culinary exchange student from India who was working in Middletown has been accused of participating in a money laundering scheme that defrauded five people of more than $150,000.
Manish Kalra pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa M. Smith on Feb. 12 in federal court in White Plains.
Kalra is depicted as a conduit, in a criminal complaint written by a U.S. Secret Service agent, in which he allegedly accepted stolen money, transferred funds to outside bank accounts and kept a portion for himself.
His associates are not identified in court documents that describe the case as a sensitive, ongoing criminal investigation.
Kalra entered the United States in August under a student exchange program and was working at a Middletown country club. Middletown police detectives interviewed him in late November, after a California sheriff’s department alerted them to a complaint by 74-year-old Palm Desert woman.
Kalra reportedly told the detectives that a week or two after he entered the U.S. another student, in India, told him to open bank accounts to facilitate money transfers.
He opened accounts with Bank of America, Chase, Citizens Bank, Key Bank, M&T Bank, TD Bank and Wells Fargo.
He admitted receiving money into the accounts, according to the complaint, and receiving instructions to send money to a conspirator and “other U.S. citizens.”
In the alleged scheme, someone would offer a computer service or refund, to gain remote access to the victim’s personal computer.
The Palm Desert woman, for instance, told investigators that a man who identified himself as “Arthur” from “Tru Web Technologies” called her and offered to handle her computer maintenance for life, for $1,500.
She issued a check to “Achall Shamkar,” but then became suspicious and notified Bank of America.
Then she received a call from “Peter” from “Key Bank,” offering to help her get a $1,500 refund. She granted “Peter” remote access to her computer, to process the refund. The caller moved $15,000 from her savings account to her checking account and told her he had accidentally refunded $15,000 instead of $1,500. He persuaded her to wire $13,500 to Kalra, to make up the difference.
As Kalra received funds from the victims, he allegedly transferred money to at least two outside accounts.
A Key Bank financial crimes investigator called Kalra and asked about the source of the funds. He reportedly told the investigator that his uncle had sent money to help extend his stay in America, to help start a food truck business, and to help him when he broke a leg.
When the investigator asked for the uncle’s name, “Kalra acted as if he could no longer hear” the investigator, the complaint states.
The other victims and their losses, according to the complaint, include a 76-year-old Orinda, California man, $46,500; a 64-year-old Sebring, Florida woman, $39,200; a 66-year-old Fort Walton, Florida man, $30,975; and a 87-year-old Baltimore man, $22,900. A 72-year-old Doniphan, Missouri woman wired $10,000 to Kalra, the complaint states, but she reported the circumstances to her banker and got the transaction stopped.