Indian-origin man in US jailed in cheque cashing scheme

Washington: An Indian-American businessman has been sentenced to 21 months in prison by a US court after being found guilty of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.

The court has also ordered 43-year-old Sawan "Sunny" Shah, who owned, operated and managed several money transmitting companies in the Columbus area in Atlanta, Georgia, to forfeit USD 1,357,476.18.

According to court documents, Shah offered cheque cashing services to the public, including cashing of cheques that exceeded USD 1,000.

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He knew that he and his companies were required to be registered with Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and with the State of Georgia.

Neither Shah nor any of the businesses he controlled were registered with FinCEN or the State of Georgia as a money transmitting business or as a cheque cashier, the Justice Department said.

As part of his plea, Shah admitted that several individuals approached him about cashing tax refund cheques that were issued in the names of other individuals.

He agreed to do so and did not require proof of identification for the individuals listed on the cheques.

Shah charged fees of between 10 and 30 per cent of the value of the cheque, due to his knowledge that the cheques were involved in tax fraud, prosecuting authorities alleged.

In 2013 and 2014, Shah cashed approximately 567 federal tax refund cheques that totalled USD 1,357,476.18.

Shah admitted in plea documents that those cheques were the result of fraudulent claims for income tax refunds submitted in the names of stolen identities, the Justice Department said.

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