BOSTON, Apr. 19, 2004
A former Indian medical student at the Tufts University
School of Medicine was sentenced today to a term of
just under one year in prison on federal charges of
loan and scholarship fraud.
United States Attorney Michael J. Sullivan announced
today that ARIJIT KUMAR CHOWDHURY, a/k/a Steve Valdez,
a/k/a Dale Barber, age 36, formerly of Somerville,
Massachusetts, was sentenced today by U.S. District
Judge Joseph L. Tauro to a term of 364 days in prison,
to be followed by 2 years of supervised release. CHOWDHURY
was also ordered to pay restitution to the educational
institutions and student loan agencies from whom he
At a previous hearing, CHOWDHURY pled guilty to a
three-count Indictment charging him with fraud in
connection with obtaining federally guaranteed Stafford
loans totaling approximately $98,865; fraud in obtaining
a half- tuition scholarship from Tufts University;
and making false statements to the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services in obtaining a $36,666
scholarship under the Department's Scholarships for
Disadvantaged Students program.
At the plea hearing, the prosecutor told the Court
that, had the case proceeded to trial, the evidence
would have proven that CHOWDHURY entered the United
States from his native India in the late 1980's, on
a student visa. After spending two years at Texas
A&M University, CHOWDHURY left college and his
visa expired. CHOWDHURY remained in the United States,
however, using the name Steven Valdez and a social
security number taken from an individual with a similar
name. Using the name Valdez, CHOWDHURY falsely claimed
to be a United States citizen, falsely claimed to
be of Hispanic ethnic background, and falsely claimed
to be an orphan. Based on these false representations,
CHOWDHURY was admitted to Oberlin College and later
to Tufts Medical School, financing his education with
scholarships that were earmarked for students from
disadvantaged backgrounds as well as student loans
that were available only to U.S. citizens.
Chowdhury accused his mentor of instructing him to
steal a Texas co-worker's identity so that Chowdhury
could win scholarships to attend the Oberlin in Ohio.
The doctor allegedly penned recommendations detailing
the boy's horrific childhood in Spain and loss of
his parents, the report said.
Chowdhury graduated at the top his class in premed
and got into Tufts in 1996 on a half-tuition scholarship.
He graduated in 2000 in the top third of his class.
Chowdhury's masquerade as Steve Valdez fell apart
when he tried to get his medical license and discovered
the real Valdez had been convicted of statutory rape
in Missouri, the media report said.
He claimed his mentor offered to save his career
by giving his prodigy his own identity. "Steve
Valdez", then, legally changed his name to Dale
Barber and assumed the doctor's Social Security number.
CHOWDHURY has been in federal custody since his arrest
in August 2004, in connection with these charges.
In sentencing CHOWDHURY, Judge Tauro noted, "He
used up several hundred thousand dollars of financial
aid that could have gone to people who belonged in
this country and I view that as a serious offense."
During the hearing, the Court noted that CHOWDHURY
will face deportation to his native India following
the completion of his prison sentence.
The case was investigated by Special Agents of the
U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector
General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services'
Office of Inspector General. It was prosecuted by
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul G. Levenson in Sullivan's
White Collar Crime Section.