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US judge sentences two men to prison over $4.4 million VoIP fraud

A federal judge sentenced two men to various prison terms for their roles in a telecom fraud scheme that netted more than $ 4.4 million, the US Department of Justice said recently.

U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan sentenced the Vinod Tonangi, age 33, a year and a day in prison, while Harjeet Bhambhani, age 40, received a 37-month term. They were also ordered to serve three years of supervised release, and Tonangi owes $ 1.7 million in restitution.

Both men pleaded guilty to a number of conspiracy to commit wire fraud by selling the stolen voice over Internet protocol services to Telecom companies including AT & T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. Phone companies often trade VoIP services on a wholesale basis.

The scheme also victimized Cordia Communications, Digerati Networks, France Telecom, Iristel, Keywest Communications, Maxcom Telecomunicaciones, profit Telecom, Primus Communications and Surfcreek Communications, according to court papers.

Tonangi, Bhambhani and their alleged co-conspirators are accused of using shell companies to induce the legitimate VoIP wholesalers who provide them with the phone services on credit. The defendants then resold the service to other telecom companies for profit, the department said. To make it appear as if the shell companies are legitimate wholesalers and VoIP providers to induce the victim to extend credit to companies on favorable terms, Tonangi, Bhambhani, and their co-conspirators took some tricky steps, including establishing fake business address for the shell company's famous New York locations, including the Empire State Building.

The conspirators also used Internet-based answering service that purported to connect callers to the shell companies' various departments, such as accounts receivable and marketing, but actually connected with the cell phones they controlled.

The co-conspirators made the scheme on weekends and holidays so the original providers will not notice, the court papers say.

When the invoice for the services come due, the co-conspirators sent fake wire transfer confirmations by e-mail or made small payments to keep providers from cutting them, the court papers say.

In fact, the company known as Paradise Communications, Communications and Airtel reach Holdings has no operations, and does not provide the services that they are purported to offer, the authorities said.

The defendants back up the companies' image using the fake business address, the shell company e-mail account with the names of non-existent employees and the myth of financial reports used the logo of a national accounting firm without its knowledge, according to prosecutors.
Tonangi and Bhambhani is also accused of using a fake passport of United States to try to verify the indentity of their non-existent lawyer, named Frank Soss.