WENHAM — A federal magistrate judge has rejected a request from the accused mastermind of a high-tech “Ponzi” scheme to be released to live with his girlfriend at her parents’ Wenham home.
Tanmaya Kabra, 25, is facing wire and bank fraud charges after federal prosecutors say he scammed multiple investors into giving him money that he claimed would be going toward helping launch tech startups but instead went to support a lavish lifestyle.
Kabra and his girlfriend, Alma Tambone, had just boarded a British Airways flight at Logan Airport, bound for Italy, on the evening of Aug. 4 when they were taken off the plane by agents from Customs and Border Protection.
From there, Kabra was taken into custody by FBI agents on a warrant.
He was carrying a $35,000 engagement ring that, according to court papers, he’d purchased from Shreve, Crump and Low with a check from an account that lacked sufficient funds for the purchase.
In a decision late last week, Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler concluded that no conditions or combination of conditions will assure Kabra’s appearance at future court proceedings, and ordered that he remain in custody pending trial.
Bowler specifically mentioned the ring and the about-to-bounce check in her decision.
But she also focused on Kabra’s ties outside the United States, where he is a naturalized citizen but one with birthright citizenship in India as well.
“He has a U.S. passport and he maintains Indian ‘overseas citizenship,’ which entitles him to travel in and out of India freely and to stay in India indefinitely,” Bowler wrote.
“According to the pretrial services report, the defendant’s recent travel includes trips to the United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Russia, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Africa, Dubai, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Singapore, where his parents and 14-year-old brother reside,” Bowler wrote.
“The defendant is facing serious criminal charges which carry substantial criminal penalties, including fines, as well as a complex civil suit, which may result in serious financial consequences,” said Bowler. And Kabra’s ties to India, where the process of extradition is “lengthy and complex,” were another factor.
“He is very well versed in international travel and has had access to large sums of cash in the past,” said Bowler.
Kabra, who created an entity called “LaunchByte” and “The Kabra Group,” presented himself as a successful serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and “angel investor” and told investors they’d receive high returns on low- or no-risk investments, prosecutors said.
Instead, Kabra used the funds to support his lifestyle, including $7,500 a month apartments, extensive travel and the purchase of a $200,000 Pursuit DC power boat from a Peabody marina, according to court papers.
Kabra’s lawyer, Greg Johnson, had argued for Kabra’s release on $50,000 bond, with a GPS and a condition that he be confined to the home of Alma’s parents, Mimi and Robert Tambone, in Wenham.
“There is little to suggest Kabra ... would commit another offense or defy this court’s orders during the case’s pendency even assuming the truth of the underlying allegations,” Johnson argued in a motion.
Kabra’s attorney also argued that a freeze on what remaining assets he held, in place in a civil suit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, should allay any concern that he would use any of those funds to flee.
In a subsequent filing, Kabra’s lawyers said that the court’s own pretrial services department had recommended conditions of release. They also expressed concern about the length of time Bowler was taking to rule on the matter, saying Kabra had, to that point, spent 16 days in “general population” at the Plymouth County jail.
“His family remains extremely concerned for his safety,” his lawyers wrote.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.