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As One Alleged Computer Fraudster Barred From Smartphone In His Taxi Another Is Detained Amid Airbnb Questions

By Matthew Russell Lee

SDNY COURTHOUSE, May 24 – Two members of a trio charged with elder fraud were presented late on May 23 with one released on bond and the other ordered detained by U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman.

  While the charges involve defrauding elderly customers with unneeded computer repairs, one of the defendants is a 54-year old taxi driver from Astoria, Queens named Jas Pal. Judge Freeman released him on $150,000 bond and the condition that he not use an internet-enabled smartphone but rather "satellite" technology for GPS for his cab driving.

  Pal's co-defendant who is still detained is Gunjit Malhotra, who was described as a resident of Ghaziabad, India. That was one of the problems he faced, showing Judge Freeman where he would stay in New York in light of the indictment. Malhotra has in the past stayed with Jas Pal in Astoria but has paid Pal for as, as an Airbnb.

 Judge Freeman noted several times that many Airbnb's are not long term. Malhotra's Federal Defenders lawyer, the ever active Sabrina Sabrina P. Shroff, was contacting Malhotra's family members in India trying to find a friend in New York he would stay with.

  Judge Freeman said she wasn't comfortable with the arrangment, nor the tenor of the bond argument before her. Sabrina Shroff sparred with the Assistant U.S. Attorney about his right to copy Malhotra's passport.

  Judge Freeman told the government not to copy the passport, but continued detention for Malhotra (unlike, earlier in the day, banker accused of bribery Stephen Calk).


 Of this alleged scheme, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As alleged, these defendants devised a sophisticated scheme that involved accessing victims’ computers to charge them for unnecessary repairs or repair services they never performed.  By targeting the elderly, the defendants took advantage of some of our society’s must vulnerable members, and they now face criminal consequences for their alleged predatory conduct.” Ryan B. Finkel of his Office is in charge of the prosecution.

  Judge Freeman set a continued bond hearing for May 30 at 4 pm in her day to day courtroom 17A. Inner City Press will be there. The case is USA v. Malhotra, et al., 19-mj-4946 (Freeman).


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