In May, a 65-year-old retiree from Chesterfield, Virginia got a strange call.
The people on the other end of the line claimed to be DEA agents. They told her they’d found a vehicle near the Mexican border in Brownsville, Texas, packed with cocaine and her bank information, and things didn’t look good for her.
They also told her to give them half the cash in her bank account as a gesture of “good faith” as they investigated. When the DEA was done looking into this cocaine car thing and it was determined the retiree didn’t do anything wrong, they would—of course—give the money back.
We don’t know this woman’s name, but her story appears in a complaint filed by an FBI agent in September. And it gets worse from here. The retiree spent most of May withdrawing $238,400 in cash from her bank accounts and sending it in eight different packages to locations across the country.
One of them—a wad of $8,500—was sent to an address in our neck of the woods: Eden Prairie.
This same thing happened again and again—to a 70-year-old man from Nevada, an 85-year-old man in Ohio, a 76-year-old woman from North Carolina. Each ended up sending thousands in cash to Eden Prairie, among other places, sometimes up to $39,000.
These addresses, you may have guessed, did not belong to DEA agents. One of them was, in fact, an Eden Prairie Walgreens. Local police started to get suspicious about the many cash-laden envelopes arriving at the store. They sent an officer to look into it, and they observed a package being picked up by 35-year-old Chirag Janakbhai Choksi. He was arrested as soon as he left the building.
Choksi was not affiliated with the DEA, but he did have “multiple Indian identification cards” and a couple of counterfeit drivers’ licenses from Pennsylvania. That’s about when the FBI stepped in.
On Thursday, Choksi and his wife, Shachi Naishadh Majmudar (also 35), were indicted by a Virginia grand jury for allegedly running a scam out of their Minnesota home. According to court documents, the two would send a robocall to a potential victim—usually an older person—and tell them they had “some serious legal problem” that required them to cooperate in an investigation.
They’d then ask for cash, send it to their co-conspirators’ addresses, and deposit it into various bank accounts. Choksi even allegedly sent videos of himself opening the packages and counting the money to partners in the scheme. They’ve reportedly had victims in Minnesota, New Jersey, California, Indiana, Texas, and Illinois.
This kind of scam is actually fairly common. The Federal Trade Commission has received 29,000 fraud reports in Minnesota last year, everything from extortions from fake U.S. Marshals to gifts solicited from duplicitous online suitors.
But it’s not as common to see someone charged, let alone indicted, for participating. Most of these cases can be hard to track, or are perpetrated from locations outside the country.
Choksi is facing charges of aggravated identity theft, and the two have also been charged with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.