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A year-long investigation by a Cowlitz County sheriff’s deputy has resulted in the arrest of a Las Vegas couple suspected of defrauding about a dozen people nationwide out of $430,000, including a local woman who lost $35,000, according to the sheriff’s office.

Detective Lorenzo Gladson and Sgt. Brad Thurman obtained a nationwide extraditable warrant for Nerraj Kohli, 39, and his wife, Shweta Kohli, 36. They traveled to Las Vegas and arrested the couple at their home on Monday with assistance from the U.S. Marshal’s Service. The suspects are awaiting an extradition hearing in Nevada for transfer to Cowlitz County, said Chief Criminal Deputy Charlie Rosenzweig.

The couple admitted they are in the United States illegally and apparently are natives of India, Rosenzweig said.

Detective Gladson began working the case in early 2016 when a Cowlitz County woman reported that a man called and told her that a virus would kill off all the data in her computer unless she sent him money to “repair” it. Rosenzweig said the investigation identified about a dozen victims nationwide, including three more in Washington: a 36-year-old from Port Angeles, a 31-year-old from Everett and a 51-year-old from Port Orchard.

The Washington cases may be combined and tried in Cowlitz County, and the couple may face federal charges as well, Rosenzweig said.

“We’re sure there are many more” victims, Rosenzweig said.

Multiple alleged scams were involved, but the computer virus scam was the main one the couple are accused of engaging in, telling their victims to send money via MoneyGram from locations all across Las Vegas. The scams were all done by telephone, the sheriff’s office said.

Some victims were also tricked into sending money out of fear of arrest if they did not pay their taxes due to the IRS. Walmart (where the money grams were cashed) surveillance photos that confirmed both of the Kohli’s physically picked up the money.

The Cowlitz County victim lost $35,200 to the Kohli’s scam. The victim who lost the most is from Newport News, Va., who was allegedly scammed out of $105,000, the sheriff’s office reported.

The sheriff’s office is declining to discuss details about how Gladson solved the case. One of the main difficulties, Rosenzweig said, was finding the suspects, because many scammers are based overseas. “We were surprised” they were in the United States, he said.

Gladson was assigned to the detective division a year ago, having served as a road deputy for about 10 years. Rosenzweig praised him for the persistence needed to solve this case.

“It was difficult, largely because it took an incredible amount of time and you have victims all over the state and country. It took a lot of diligence and perseverance, and this is only about one of about a dozen cases he has.”

Gladson was not available for an interview Tuesday.

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Contact City Editor Andre Stepankowsky at 360-577-2520.


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