By Tammy Daniels
District Attorney Andrea Harrington announces the arrest of two people in a multistate fraud ring.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Two area residents are being charged in a multistate phone fraud ring that scammed victims out of upwards of $300,000.
Ajaykumar Chaudhari, 24, of Pownal, Vt., and Jitendra Chaudhari, 27, of Wiliamstown are expected to be arraigned on Wednesday in Northern Berkshire District Court in North Adams.
Police say they have not confirmed the suspects’ relationship, if any.
Their arrests are the result of a three-month investigation that included local police departments, the sheriff’s office, and State Police assigned to the Berkshire district attorney’s office.
Law enforcement executed search warrants at three locations in the Northern Berkshires on Monday and arrested two individuals as part of a three-month investigation into a nationwide organized fraud scheme.
“In March, police in other jurisdictions alerted the Adams Police Department that individuals in their own communities reported being scammed and sending thousands of dollars in cash to addresses in Adams,” said District Attorney Andrea Harrington at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “In total, 27 search warrants were executed over the duration of each investigation, including two businesses, one residence and multiple motor vehicles.”
Police seized $50,000 during search warrants executed on Monday. Some of the estimated $300,000 scammed has been recovered and returned to the victims and some held for evidence.
The suspects are facing charges of larceny by false pretenses over $1,200, larceny from a person over the age of 65 and conspiracy. More charges may be likely.
Law enforcement declined at this point to provide further information on what the scams entailed but did say the victims ranged in age.
“We’re still going through extensive amounts of information that was recovered during the course of the search warrant,” said Harrington. “So we’ll have a better idea of that in the near future.”
The case is still under active investigation with other law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions and there may be additional arrests nationwide.
“Last year, the Federal Trade Commission reported that people lost $1.9. billion through various scams and imposter scams,” Harrington said. “These types of scams involve caller attempts to create urgency distress and trigger an emotional response.”
Her office offered the following tips:
Do not engage with callers who try to pressure you into making an immediate decision or request secrecy
Do not provide any personal information if you did not initiate the contact.
Be wary of anyone who asked 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 your phone calls, do not answer the phone if you do not recognize the number, add your number to the do not call lest
Monitor your financial records closely.
Harrington urged anyone who thinks they have been scammed to contact local police or her office.
“If you are scammed, do not be critical of yourself. Anyone can be,” she said. “And many scams go unreported, because the victim is too ashamed.”
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