In a collaboration between local and federal law enforcement agencies, two men who were allegedly involved in an internet scam that defrauded a Flathead County senior citizen of $150,000 have been arrested for felony theft, Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino said.
Sukhdev Vaid of India and Eddly Joseph of Florida were arrested and booked in the Flathead County Detention Center in early March.
According to charging documents, staff at Glacier Bank reported a potential theft to the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) at the end of February after a client withdrew $150,000 in cash, telling law enforcement that she suspected a scam.
The victim of the alleged scam told law enforcement that she was contacted by a man identified as “Jack” in January who said her laptop had been hacked and she must withdraw her money. She was then instructed to deliver the cash in person to another man identified as “Richard,” who would deposit the money in the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank for “safe keeping.” The victim delivered the cash near Bigfork.
On March 1, the victim was requested an additional $50,000 and she agreed to meet the man again. With the company of FSCO deputies and the FBI, she met with “Richard” again in Bigfork, who was later identified as Joseph, and was intercepted by law enforcement.
Vaid, who was at the scene in a different vehicle, attempted leaving the area but was stopped by authorities.
Law enforcement later discovered that Vaid flew into Missoula from San Francisco and drove to the Flathead Valley a few hours before the first alleged theft.
Vaid is being held on a $200,000 bond while Joseph is being held on a $500,000 bond.
Vaid’s arraignment hearing is scheduled for March 23 before Judge Amy Eddy. Joseph’s arraignment hearing is scheduled for March 30 before Judge Dan Wilson.
Authorities believe Vaid and Joseph are part of a large, organized crime network. The $150,000 was not recovered as of March 6 and the suspects are believed to have access to “significant funds.” Neither individual has ties to Montana, and Deputy Flathead County Attorney Andrew Clegg described them as “extreme flight risks” in an affidavit.
“We get a lot of calls on these types of scenarios,” Heino said. “The individuals came to our community and when we got information on this, it was a pretty dramatic call to action.”
The FBI and its Montana Regional Violent Offenders Task Force assisted in the arrests.
According to the FBI, 406 seniors in Montana reported losses of almost $5.5 million in 2021. The Federal Trade Commission reported that phone calls are the main method of contact to reach older adults and top fraud situations include government imposter scams, shopping scams, identify theft, robocalls, romance scams and healthcare and health insurance scams.
On April 1, My Glacier Village and Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC) are hosting a Senior Fraud Protection Summit to educate the public about how to protect against fraud scams that target seniors.
“We initiated the conversation about senior fraud last year and are thrilled to continue this awareness and education about this increasing theft that can easily devastate lives,” Glacier Village Founder and Board Chair Jenn Prunty said. “It’s a conversation we should all be having.”
The event is at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 1 in the Arts and Technology Building on the FVCC campus.
Pre-registration is required. Visit www.myglacier.com/events or call 406-250-8784 to register.
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