Two Indian Americans, Yogesh Patel (58) and Arvind Lakkamsani (57), have been charged with defrauding the US Postal Service of at least $16 million.
Prodigy Mailing Services, a bulk mailing service owned and operated by the duo, for a five-year period - from 2010 to 2015 - forged documents and secretly used an official date stamp to fraudulently authenticate payment of postage for than 80 million pieces of mail from two energy companies, according to criminal charges filed by the US Attorney's Office in Chicago, the Press Trust of India reported.
This led to the US Postal Service losing at $16 million as stated earlier.
Here is the full press release put out by the Illinois Justice Department:
The owners of a suburban bulk-mailing company swindled the U.S. Postal Service out of at least $16 million by forging documents and secretly using an official date stamp to fraudulently authenticate payment of postage for than 80 million pieces of mail, according to criminal charges filed today by the US Attorney's Office in Chicago.
Yogesh Patel and Arvind Lakkamsani owned and operated Prodigy Mailing Services Inc., which was based in Bolingbrook and later in Woodridge.
Prodigy assembled bulk mailings from customers and provided the mailings – along with fraudulent payment and verification forms – to the Postal Service for delivery, without paying postage on those mailings.
According to the charges, Patel and Lakkamsani schemed with a third defendant, David Gargano, to fraudulently cause the Postal Service to deliver numerous bulk mailings without payment. The trio forged a Postal Service clerk's signature on the verification forms and secretly used an official Postal Service date stamp to make it falsely appear that the clerk had authenticated postage, the charges allege.
From 2010 to 2015, the defendants caused a loss to the Postal Service of at least $16 million, according to the charges.
A criminal information charges each of the three defendants – Patel, 58, of Orlando, Florida, Lakkamsani, 57, of Northbrook, Illinois, and Gargano, 51, of Barrington, Illinois – with one count of mail fraud. Arraignments in US District Court in Chicago have not yet been scheduled.
The charges were announced by John R Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and William Hedrick, Acting Inspector-in-Charge of the US Postal Inspection Service in Chicago.
According to the charges, Gargano owned Illinois-based Direct Mail Resources Inc., which collected a fee to match customers seeking to make bulk mailings with companies who could perform those services, such as Prodigy. Gargano referred two energy companies to Prodigy for bulk mailing services. The two energy companies provided millions of dollars to the defendants to pay the postage for the companies' bulk mailings. Instead of using those funds to pay the postage, the defendants split the money amongst themselves and used it for their own benefit, the charges allege.
The information alleges that the defendants made the mailings but kept the postage money from the energy companies without paying postage to the Postal Service.
Patel and Lakkamsani fraudulently maintained a key to a Postal Service mail unit, which was located inside Prodigy's facility, and used the key to secretly access an official date-stamp without the Postal Service's knowledge or approval, the information states. By forging the Postal clerk's signature and fraudulently stamping the mailings, the defendants made it falsely appear that the verification forms – which identified the amount of postage paid for the bulk mailings – were authentic and that postage had been appropriately paid, the charges allege.
The public is reminded that an information is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Mail fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory US Sentencing Guidelines.
The government is represented by Assistant US Attorney Jacqueline Stern.