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Indian American accused of online travel fraud

Jagdeep Pujji has been charged with defrauding consumers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the US.

india Updated: Nov 11, 2005 19:11 IST

An Indian American travel agent who operates several travel websites advertising cheap airfares has been charged with defrauding consumers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Jagdeep S Pujji, also known as Jack Pujji and JS Pujji, apparently advertised for trips to Europe, Asia, Africa and other international destinations that consumers paid for but for which they never received tickets. He has been arrested.

Pujji is being held pending arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on charges of grand larceny in the second, third and fourth degrees, scheme to defraud in the first degree and petit larceny, a press release by the district attorney's (DA) office said. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

According to the complaint against him, for a 14-month period ending in October 2004, the defendant engaged in a scheme to defraud nearly 80 customers out of more than $200,000 by cashing their checks - averaging between $900 and $6,600 - and failing to provide the promised travel arrangements.

The DA was quoted in the release as warning prospective customers of buying tickets online warily.

"The defendant is accused of ripping off nearly 80 on-line consumers by stealing their money and their dream vacations. Many of these people no doubt saved and planned for their trips for a long time only to discover at the last minute that they had no reservations.

"Based on the growing number of complaints being lodged by angry consumers nationwide against the defendant on various Internet travel forums, we are probably looking at just the tip of the iceberg. Consumers should be aware that in exchange for the convenience of the Internet in making travel plans they also may be unwittingly opening their front doors to schemers."

Pujji allegedly operated several Internet travel agency sites from his home - such as lowestairfarefinder.com, abfcorp.com and cheapestdiscountairlinetickets.com. Typically, once a consumer made their travel arrangements, the defendant would allegedly offer a discount of several hundred dollars if the consumer paid by check within two to three days instead of by credit card.

First Published: Nov 11, 2005 00:00 IST