HOUSTON: A 26-year-old Indian "con artist" in the US state of Texas has been sentenced to 12 months and a day in prison for defrauding several foreign citizens living in America of over USD 160,000 by falsely claiming to be a film producer, according to the Department of Justice.
Shiva Chandan Reddy Thudi of Texas' Irving, who attended college in New Hampshire from 2015 to 2017, faces likely removal to India after serving his prison sentence, US Attorney Scott W Murray said in a statement on Thursday.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Thudi, during his college days, established relationships with and defrauded several individuals who were foreign citizens living in the United States.
He falsely told his victims that he was seeking investors to share in the profits of business ventures that involved his producing and distributing films in America, the US Attorney's Office, District of New Hampshire said.
In reality, Thudi was not a movie producer or distributor and, instead, he used his victim's money for his own personal benefit, it said.
To keep the scheme going, Thudi engaged in a classic ponzi scheme by using money paid by later victims to pay supposed "returns" on the "investment" made by earlier victims, it said.
When interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Thudi admitted he stole substantial amounts of money from the victims by selling illusory ownership interests in several films to them.
Additionally, he admitted that he used the victims' money for his personal benefit and to make lulling payments to keep the scheme going, according to the statement.
In total, Thudi stole more than USD 160,000 from his victims, it said, adding that he faces likely removal to India after serving his prison sentence.
Fraudsters who cultivate and then exploit relationships in order to steal money are criminals who must be held responsible for their conduct, said US Attorney Murray.
"By playing the role of film producer, Shiva Chandan Reddy Thudi stole tens of thousands of dollars from starstruck victims he convinced had the inside track for investing in his movies, but our investigation into his ponzi scheme exposed him for what he really is, a con artist," said Joseph R Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division.
"With today's sentence, he's being held accountable for their losses, and we'd like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that if an investment opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is," Bonavolonta said.
This matter was investigated by the FBI.