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Bollywood show man in fraud net
- Hard times for Indians in US: Glare on men linked to films, fashion and finance

Washington, Nov. 14: A flashy Indian American who claims to have brought all of Bollywood to the US for concerts, starting in 1989, faces up to 20 years in prison for fraud.

Vijay K. Taneja, 47, admitted in court yesterday that his entertainment ventures were financed with money obtained through a mortgage fraud scheme that cost banks at least $33 million. This would make it the largest mortgage fraud case in Virginia in almost 20 years and among the largest nationally.

“That’s an incredible amount of loss,” said Adam Lee, supervisory special agent for financial crimes in the FBI’s Washington field office.

Prosecutors said Taneja, a US citizen, created bogus mortgage loans, sold legitimate loans to more than one buyer and pocketed the proceeds of refinancings. He will be sentenced on January 30.

Also a film producer — Himesh Reshammiya’s Aap Ka Surroor was his production — the Washington area businessman was an icon in the local Indian community.

Taneja entered his plea to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering in a soft, hesitant voice in the US district dourt at Alexandria.

Prosecutors told the judge Taneja invested millions of his mortgage proceeds in Indian films and theatrical productions through one of his companies, Elite Entertainment. “He has millions of dollars unaccounted for,” assistant attorney Stephen Learned said. “There’s so much money, and it’s difficult to figure out where it all went.”

Taneja was ordered released on a personal recognisance bond.

Members of the Washington region’s tightly knit Indian community said Taneja was revered by many because of his show business connections and insistence on doing business mainly with others in the community.

According to the Elite Entertainment website, Taneja brought Bollywood’s A-listers — Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Aamir Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Rishi Kapoor, Jeetendra and Rani Mukherjee, to name some — for shows in the US.

This could not be independently confirmed with the stars.

Salman and John Abraham were reported to have fought during one of the shows, Rock Stars 2006, and have not been on talking terms since, sources said. The first show the website lists was in 1989.

“He knew people in the film and music industry, and he produced these shows,” said Anuj Sud, a Maryland lawyer who said several of his relatives were victimised by Taneja. “People see this guy out there involved in Bollywood and the attraction is, ‘Hey, this guy is popular.’”

David Lamb, a Washington lawyer who represents several of Taneja’s victims, said: “Everyone looked up to him. He had all this big flashy money, and they thought he was a star.”

Although the $33-million loss was borne by four financial institutions — First Tennessee Bank, Franklin Bank, Wells Fargo Bank and EMC Mortgage Corp. — prosecutors said numerous area residents were victimised as well.

They said Taneja prepared some legitimate mortgages, mostly for members of the Indian community, but would dupe people into signing dual sets of loan documents. He would then create a fictitious mortgage based on the second set of documents and sell the phony loan to an investor, which would leave the victims with mortgages they didn’t know they had.

One area business owner said her credit was ruined because she obtained several mortgages with Taneja and only later realised that he had taken out several more in her name. “When I went to refinance my house, they told me I had $6 million in mortgages,” said the woman.

Court documents say Taneja’s main company, Financial Mortgage Inc., also did refinancings and defrauded banks by not paying off the first mortgages. For example, a customer would borrow $500,000, intending to receive $100,000 as cash and use $400,000 to pay off his first mortgage. Taneja would give the customer the $100,000 and pocket the $400,000. The bank that held the first mortgage wouldn’t notice because it didn’t know there had been a refinancing.

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