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U.S. charges Indian man over $10 mln computer fraud scheme targeting elderly

NEW YORK, July 20 (Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors in Manhattan have accused an Indian man of helping run a scheme that tricked thousands of victims, including the elderly, into buying left necessary anti-virus protection of the computer by falsely claiming that malware has infected their machines.

Vinoth Ponmaran, 34, was arrested July 15 in Blaine, Washington, and ordered in jail after a brief hearing Wednesday in federal court in Seattle.

Prosecutors said victims saw computer pop-up windows, sometimes with logos of well-known companies, claiming malware had been found, and were ordered to call the phone number for “technical support. “

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When hooked, victims allegedly paid several hundred or several thousand dollars to fraudsters, who would sometimes access computers but only to run anti-virus tools that were free to use.

Prosecutors say more than 7,500 people in the United States and Canada were defrauded of more than $ 10 million from 2015 to 2018, and Ponmaran ordered associates who conspired to wire some of the proceeds. to defraud Indian accounts.

Christopher Black, a Ponmaran lawyer, declined to comment.

Ponmaran, also known as Victor James, was charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, each with a maximum of 20 years in prison.

A co-defendant, Romana Leyva of Las Vegas, was sentenced in January to serve 8-1/3 years in prison and pay $ 7.4 million in forfeiture and restitution after pleading guilty.

Another co-defendant, Ariful Haque of Queens, New York, also pleaded guilty and was sentenced in May to serve one year and one day in prison and pay $ 510,000.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty in Manhattan imposed two sentences, and handled Ponmaran’s case.

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Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Edited by Sandra Maler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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