Friday, April 14, 2017

Indian national pleads guilty for role in multi-million dollar scam that preyed on elderly, immigrants


IF YOU'RE  a senior citizen or a new immigrant, you might have received a frightening phone call threatening you with arrest or deportation. 

The callers pose as government employees from the IRS or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The callers are aggressive and try to scare people into transferring money into alleged government accounts.

The India-based ring responsible for the scam may have collected hundreds of millions of dollars over the years with its callers posing as government workers.

An Indian national pleaded guilty yesterday (April 13) to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering for his role in liquidating and laundering victim payments generated through various telephone fraud and money laundering schemes via India-based call centers.

Bharatkumar Patel
Bharatkumar Patel, aka Bharat Patel, 43, an Indian national who had resided in Midlothian, Illinois, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas. He also agreed to deportation following his sentence. Sentencing is currently set for July 7, 2017.

According to admissions made in connection with the plea, Patel and his co-conspirators perpetrated a complex scheme in which individuals from call centers located in Ahmedabad, India, impersonated officials from the IRS or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in a ruse designed to defraud victims located throughout the U.S. 

The scammers tricked at least 15,000 people into shelling out more than $300 million, according to the DOJ.

Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, call center operators targeted U.S. victims who were threatened with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged monies owed to the government.

Victims who agreed to pay the scammers were instructed how to provide payment, including by purchasing stored value cards or wiring money, and upon payment, the call centers would immediately turn to a network of “runners” based in the U.S. to liquidate and launder the fraudulently-obtained funds.

According to his plea, beginning in or about July 2013, Patel worked as a member of a crew of runners operating in the Chicago area and elsewhere throughout the country. Patel admitted to purchasing reloadable cards or retrieving wire transfers and using the misappropriated personal identifying information of U.S. citizens. 

Patel also admitted to opening personal bank accounts in order to receive scam proceeds and payments from defrauded victims as well as creating limited liability companies in his name to further the conspiracy. 

According to his plea, Patel opened one bank account that received more than $1.5 million in deposits over a one-year period and another bank account that received more than $450,000 in deposits over a five-month period.

Patel was charged for his role in the fraud and money laundering scheme alongside 55 other individuals and five call centers in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas on Oct. 19, 2016.
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