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Indian Americans in news for wrong reasons

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington: Usually hitting headlines with their achievements in this country where they number over 2.5 million, at least four Indian Americans this week made news for crimes – ranging from armed robbery to sending hate mail to president George Bush to running healthcare fraud schemes.

Anirudh Lakhan Sukhu, 43, was sentenced to 255 months in prison, followed by four years of supervised release, for an armed bank robbery and shooting a bank teller in the hand with a shotgun in 2008 in Baltimore, Maryland.

An Indiana district court judge Friday sentenced a former Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) student Vikram Buddhi, 38, to 57 months in prison for allegedly making threats against former president George W. Bush.

And two other persons of Indian origin pleaded guilty in connection with multiple health care fraud schemes in Detroit, Michigan.

Baskaran Thangarasan, 37, a physio therapist faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine while Sandeep Aggarwal, 38, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for running a sham health management firm.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation the alleged robber, Sukhu with two accomplices robbed the Bank of America in Clarksville, Maryland on Nov 20, 2008 and shot a bank employee with a sawed-off 12 gauge shotgun.

Arrested in 2006, Buddhi was convicted by a jury in June, 2007 on all counts in an eleven count indictment. The former Purdue University PhD student was accused of posting a threatening message directed towards Bush and others on a financial web-site message board.

In the third case, Thangarasan admitted that between Sep 2003 and May 2006, his co-conspirators submitted claims to the Medicare programmes totalling approximately $5,055,000 for files that were falsified by him. Medicare actually paid approximately $2,325,000 on those claims.

In his plea in the same case, Aggarwal admitted to assisting co-conspirator Suresh Chand in laundering the proceeds of Chand’s Medicare fraud scheme.

Chand, who pleaded guilty in September 2009 admitted to conspiring to submit about $18 million in fraudulent physical and occupational therapy claims to the Medicare programme. Aggarwal admitted he and Chand laundered approximately $393,000 through a sham entity called Global Health Care Management Services.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])