Fraud suspects accused of stealing more than $400K

LAS VEGAS — Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office detectives, aided by U.S. Marshals, arrested a husband and wife team in Las Vegas that was accused of defrauding citizens across the country of more than $400,000.

The suspects, 39-year-old Neeraj Kohli and 36-year-old Shweta Kohli, were taken into custody at their home in Las Vegas on Monday. The couple is being held without bail at the Las Vegas Metro Police Department Jail. 

The investigation began in early 2016 when the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office received a call from a resident saying they had sent thousands of dollars to a man, believed to be one of the suspects, who said her computer was affected by a virus. The suspect told her she would lose data if she did not send him money to fix her computer.

Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office Detective Lorenzo Gladson and Sgt. Brad Thurman obtained a nationwide extraditable warrant for the two suspects. On Monday, with the help of U.S. Marshals, they found the couple at their home in Las Vegas and arrested them.

The Cowlitz County victim lost more than $35,000 in the scam. Police found three other victims in Washington state and numerous other victims across the country.

The suspects scammed citizens of about $425,000 in 239 MoneyGram transactions from December 2015 to March 2016. The most notable victim was a senior in Virginia who paid $105,000 to the suspects.

Police say the scams were all done by telephone from Las Vegas. The suspects posed as IRS agents and told the victims they would be arrested if they did not pay their taxes over the phone via MoneyGram. Police obtained surveillance photos from Wal-Mart that showed both suspects cashing the MoneyGrams.

Extradition proceedings will take place in Las Vegas. After extradition hearings are over, the suspects will be brought to Cowlitz County to stand trial for multiple counts of first-degree theft.

A federal agent familiar with the investigation said the suspects may be prosecuted federally. U.S. immigration authorities are also investigating the case. Police say it appears the suspects are in the country illegally.  

© 2017 KGW-TV


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