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Indian Medical Student Receives Prison Term
for Loan and Scholarship Fraud

BOSTON, Apr. 19, 2004
NRI press

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 obtained money.

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.


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