A father and daughter accused of running a fraudulent debt elimination scheme have pleaded not guilty to federal fraud charges.
The 13-count indictment was returned last month, three days after a judge ordered Sunita Buddhu, 42, of Wethersfield to remain in federal custody until her next court appearance on mail fraud and conspiracy charges and said she posed a flight risk and a continuing economic danger to her community if released.
The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters first reported on complaints filed in civil court against Buddhu's father, Deowraj, in May.
Deowraj Buddhu, 69, and Sunita Buddhu were arrested by federal agents and were in court on Monday.
“It is alleged that this father and daughter preyed on struggling homeowners and defrauded them of thousands of dollars through a fictitious debt elimination scheme,” U.S. Attorney David Fein said in a news release. “I urge all distressed homeowners to be wary of such schemes and to seek legitimate assistance for financial difficulties. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to prosecuting individuals who victimize individuals through financial fraud schemes.”
As NBC Connecticut previously reported, the federal complaint accuses the pair of running a debt elimination scheme that targets mostly non-English speaking customers by promising them access to a supposed secret stash of federal money. Some customers wind up in foreclosure as a result and papers filed in civil court reveal there could be as many as 200 alleged victims.
Sunita Buddhu notarizes many of her father's documents and invoices. Federal agents seized four computers and 25 boxes of potential evidence at the Buddhu home in Wethersfield on June 11.
Sunita Buddhu's attorney, Brian J. Woolf, argued during her prior detention hearing that Buddhu had formulated plans to visit Guyana long in advance of her arrest.
Woolf previously said Buddhu was a clerical worker under her father's direction and that placing her in the same package as Deowraj is "ludicrous."
"Under the influence of her father was more than she bargained for," Woolf said.
Woolf also told the judge the risk would be minimal if Buddhu were to be granted home confinement.
Judge Thomas Smith disagreed and said the evidence was "quite strong" against Buddhu.
Buddhu faces a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, if convicted.