Tejas Mehta, a Manhattan based jewelry wholesaler was arrested on August 5 for allegedly forging the seal of a federal agency and committing wire fraud. Mehta allegedly forged the seal of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in order to steal jewelry he obtained legitimately from other wholesalers. Mehta purchased the precious stones on consignment and then falsely claimed that they were seized by the CBP, offering the forged documents as evidence. ICE reports that this scheme allowed Mehta to defraud his business partners of roughly $1 million. Mehta defrauded one diamond trader in particular of approximately $650,000.
After Mehta’s actions began to arouse suspicion, ICE and the IRS conducted a joint investigation. Now that the investigation is complete and Mehta has officially been charged, he will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York on counts of forgery and wire fraud.
Forgery is the act of copying or imitating an official document with the intent to deceive. Forgery is against both state and federal law. Mehta is accused of forging an official seal of a government agency, a federal crime under 18 USC Section 506. This statute makes it a crime to forge or counterfeit a seal of any U.S. department or agency with a fraudulent intent. In this case, Mehta’s alleged forgery of the CBP seal seems to have the requisite elements of forgery. The crime is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison.
Meanwhile, wire fraud is defined as the use of “the wires” to commit or with the intent to commit a scheme to defraud. The term “the wires” has been defined broadly and can mean the Internet, television or phone lines. While the details of how Mehta allegedly distributed the forged document are unknown, it is possible he did so through email or some other electronic communication. If so, he could be found guilty of wire fraud in addition to forgery. It is important to note, that wire fraud can only be charged in furtherance of another fraud or crime, so Mehta must be convicted of forgery to be found guilty of wire fraud. In addition to the penalties coming from the forgery charge, Mehta faces an additional 20 years imprisonment stemming from the wire fraud charge.
Clearly, these crimes are very serious and require a knowledgeable and skilled attorney to provide a satisfactory defense. If you have been charged with forgery or wire fraud, or any other crime, contact us, the Blanch Law Firm immediately at 212-736-3900.