Panesar went on the run after jumping bail to Mexico
A man of Indian-origin from the USA, Hardev Panesar, aged 70, has admitted to being the mastermind behind a multimillion-dollar immigration fraud that scammed over 100 people.
On Thursday, February 21, 2019, Panesar admitted to the offences in the San Diego Federal Court. He agreed to pay back $2.5 million to his victims.
Panesar, from San Deigo, speaks up to five languages, used name aliases and is labelled as a chronic liar. His wife, Leticia Panesar, is also involved in the fraud, according to authorities.
Over five years, Panesar pretended to be a US government official from the Department of Homeland Security to run his fraud, according to the US Department of Justice.
A year-long investigation by the FBI with a wiretap into his phone revealed he told someone during the Obama presidency that he was given a jacket by the president.
He claimed he was a National Security Agency agent when he got arrested according to the prosecution.
Panesar and his associates claimed they could get the victims and their families legal immigration status in the US or stop their deportation proceedings, in return for very large sums of money to be paid to them.
They flashed the Department of Home Security credentials, gave immigration forms to fill out and even took fingerprints of the victims to make it look official.
Victims were being asked to pay $20,000 to $40,000 or more for the service Panesar was running.
When some of the victims began to get suspicious about Panesar’s dealings and wanted their money back, he threatened them with violence, including threatening to behead a client once, according to court records.
In June 2018, Panesar went on the run after jumping bail to Mexico after cutting off his GPS anklet.
Authorities got alerted that his GPS ankle bracelet had been tampered with on June 21, 2018.
An email from Bob Virk, the co-signer Panesar’s $100,000 bail bond was also sent to authorities, expressing “great concern” about Panesar’s intention to flee the US, saying:
“He has a Nigerian passport and he’s planning on running when the GPS device is removed.”
His wife, Leticia Panesar a US citizen who lives in Mexico, lied on Panesar’s behalf to help him stay at her house Mexico.
She was caught on her way back into the USA. She said she would stay in the US while authorities tried to capture him. But then absconded over the border to warn him according to the FBI.
Panesar hid in Mexico but was eventually caught by Mexican authorities who deported him back to the US in August 2018, where he was remanded in custody.
One of his associates, Gurdev Singh, of Bakersfield, accused of helping Panesar recruit victims, pleaded guilty prior to his Panesar’s capture.
Panesar’s right-hand man, Rafael “Rafa” Hastie is also being tried for the offences.
Panesar’s admission of guilt has cut the trial short. It’s reckoned that he faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.