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Indian businessman charged in LaGuardia Airport security breach

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Phani Kumar Varanasi
Phani Kumar Varanasi

The area of LaGuardia International Airport where Phani Kumar Varanasi managed to breach the barrier of a “sterile area” of the facility.

NEW YORK (Diya TV) – In video first obtained by the New York Daily News, a rookie security guard could be seen looking on as an Indian national haplessly wandered right into an off-limits area of the facility.

Phani Kumar Varanasi, 41, was placed under arrest Thursday, two days after the Tuesday security breach on a charge of criminal trespass after surrendering to Port Authority cops at the Queens airport, police said.

“He didn’t do anything wrong,” a relative of Varanasi’s told the Daily News. “It was a mistake. He was just going on vacation. We are in a deep soup.”

According to the report, Varanasi told police he was confused about where to go after exiting from his plane, he had just arrived from Detroit. Video obtained in the report shows Varanasi casually venturing into a “sterile area” of the airport, while a TSA employee sits at his desk just as casually inside LaGuardia’s Terminal B.

The incident led to a partial evacuation of the terminal (using communicative devices such as rechargeable walkie talkies, announcements, etc.) while causing travel problems for hundreds of passengers as authorities conducted a security sweep.

Varanasi managed to wander the restricted zone of the airport for five minutes without being noticed, before returning to the public space through the same exit and walking away, according to the TSA. Port Authority cops were finally called, but Varanasi was already gone by then.

The worker at his desk was “within the one-year probation period, and appropriate action will be taken,” the TSA said in a statement on Thursday.

Varanasi was identified through surveillance video and a list of passengers aboard the flight. He works as a general manager with Sankhya Infotech, an India-based manufacturer of gas and water meters.

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FTX’s Nishad Singh got $543 million loan

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More fallout from the FTX cryptocurrency platform collapse. Court documents show its affiliate Alameda Research loaned executives like Sam Bankman Fried $1 billion and more than $500 million to Indian American Nishad Singh, FTX’s top engineer. FTX’s interim CEO says never in his career has he seen such complete failure of corporate controls and a complete absence of trustworthy financial information. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after it was unable to come up with customer funds.

Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison after her conviction in January for defrauding investors while running the failed blood testing start up Theranos.In her trial, Holmes alleged she was in the midst of a decade-long abusive relationship with her then-boyfriend and Theranos COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani. The Indian American was also found guilty for his role in this fraud and will be sentenced later.

Starting next month, India will assume the G20 presidency for a year and chair more than 200 meetings, leading the way for global economic growth. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country’s leadership here will be inclusive, ambitious, and decisive.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Arvind Venkat & Tarik Khan win Pennsylvania State seats

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WASHINGTON D.C. (Diya TV) – Looking back at the midterm elections, Arvind Venkat and Tarik Khan made history as the first South Asian Americans elected to the Pennsylvania State Legislature. Advocacy group Indian American Impact played a major role on the ground, saying it trained and mobilized 200 volunteers to go door-to-door, to engage voters and provide info they needed to elect new leadership.

After 35 years, the Nancy Pelosi era is officially coming to an end. The speaker from San Francisco announced she’s bowing out of leadership, but will retain her House seat. The midterms cost Pelosi’s Democratic party the House and effectively ended her speakership.

Two former Indian American executives at Meta Platforms will launch a new non fungible token start up for creators. Kirthiga Reddy and Saurabh Doshi have raised more than $8 million for their new company called Virtualness. But they are facing headwinds as the FTX cryptocurrency exchange collapse is putting pressure on the entire industry.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Meet FTX insider Nishad Singh

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SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) – The controversy around failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX continues to captivate the world. Part of the scrutiny is now on the people involved, including Indian American Nishad Singh. According to new reports, this techie was part of FTX’s inner circle, which lived together and ran the cryptocurrency empire from the Bahamas. The software engineer was also reportedly aware that FTX secretly transferred customer funds worth billions of dollars to its sister firm Alameda Research. Currently, no one is facing any criminal charges. Diya TV featured Singh more than a decade ago for running ultra marathons as a 17 year old getting ready for college. 

Former President Donald Trump has officially announced he is running for president in 2024, marking his third bid for the White House. Trump had been hinting at this announcement for months, as the embattled former president faces multiple criminal and civil litigations and as his party is grappling with a worse than expected showing in the midterm elections. 

At the G20 Summit in Bali, world leaders including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden are coming together to condemn the rising threat of nuclear weapons as Russia’s war against Ukraine continues to raise tension and anxiety around the world.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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