Local Man and Woman Arrested in Nationwide Fraud Scheme
According to a statement from the Berkshire District Attorney's Office, police arrested Ajaykumar Chaudhari, 24, of Pownal, Vt. and Jitendra Chaudhari, 27, of Williamstown as the result of a three-month investigation into a national organized fraud scheme.
They are facing charges of larceny by false pretenses over $1,200, larceny from a person over the age of 65, and conspiracy. Each of the charges carries state prison sentences of up to five years.
The D.A.'s office anticipates the two will be arraigned in Northern Berkshire District Court on Wednesday.
Law enforcement believes the Chaudharis were involved in multi-state scheme intended to defraud individuals through phone scams.
In March, police in other jurisdictions alerted Adams Police that individuals in their communities reported sending thousands of dollars in cash to addresses in Adams under potentially fraudulent terms.
The Berkshire State Police Detective Unit and the Berkshire Law Enforcement Task Force assigned to the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office, Adams Police and partner police organizations in Lanesborough, North Adams, Pittsfield, Williamstown, Hoosick Falls, N.Y. and the Berkshire Sheriff’s Office launched a multi-agency, multi-state investigation that spanned three months.
In total, law enforcement agencies executed 27 search warrants throughout the investigation including two businesses, one residence, and multiple motor vehicles.
Local law enforcement executed search warrants on businesses and a residence on Monday and seized approximately $50,000.
Investigators accounted for approximately $300,000 allegedly sent because of potential fraud. Law enforcement seized and returned much of the money to victims or held as evidence pending the ongoing prosecution.
Law enforcement is still actively investigating the method and manner used to illegally solicit and defraud the individuals.
The investigation is ongoing and there may be additional arrests. If you or anyone you know could have potentially been scammed, contact your local police department.
Nationwide, last year the FTC reported that people lost $1.9 billion through various scams with imposter scams accounted for $667 million. These types of scams involve callers attempt to create urgency, distress, and trigger an emotional response.
The District Attorney's office asks residents to follow these tips to protect themselves from fraud:
• Do not engage with callers who try to pressure you into making an immediate decision or insist on secrecy.
• Do not provide any personal information if you did not initiate the contact.
• Be wary of anyone who asks you to send cash, wire funds, send cash, or purchase prepaid cards.
• Consult with a loved one or the police department if you are unsure of anything.
• Screen phone calls. Do not answer the phone if you do not recognize the number.
• Monitor your financial records closely.
• Be careful when responding to any solicitation. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.
• Add yourself to the Do Not Call list.
• Check Your Credit Report: Get a copy of your credit report and dispute any fraudulent transactions. You can request credit reports online from the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) or by calling (877) 322-8228.
If you get a call, remain calm. They want you to have an emotional response. Hang up the phone immediately.
• File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint. Report it to your local police department and the Attorney General’s Office.
• Include date and time, name of the government agency the imposter used, what the caller told you including the amount and payment method they requested, the phone number, and any other details.
If you are scammed, do not be critical of yourself. Anyone can become a victim and many scams go unreported because the victim is ashamed.
•Report scams to the local police department, the Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Trade Commission.