Call centre racket: Root of IRS scam traced to Gujarat, say police

‘First contact with prospective victims established from Ahmedabad call centres’

Written by Rohit Alok | Mumbai | Published:October 9, 2016 3:01 am
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The conception and commencement of the IRS scam, busted last week by the Thane Police following raids at eight call centres at Mira Road, is based in Gujarat, investigations have revealed. According to the police, Ahmedabad is the starting point of the crime, where call centres operate in tandem with the ones raided at Mira Road, about 45 km from Mumbai. The first contact with the prospective American victims of the fraud was often established from an Ahmedabad call centre, said the police.

“The voice mails sent to the American debtors are from Ahmedabad. While the call centres at Mira Road are less than five months old, the ones in Ahmedabad had been set up at least three years ago by the main conspirator, Shaggy,” an investigative officer said. Shaggy, according to the police, is 26-year-old Sagar Thakkar based out of Ahmedabad, and who allegedly established several call centres similar to the ones at Mira Road.

Victims in the US were threatened with a “tax investigation” by operators at these call centres, pretending to be officials from the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). According to a 28-year-old floor manager, arrested by the Thane Police, besides paying the 70 people who worked on his floor in cash, he would routinely call up his counterpart in Ahmedabad to give him a status update on the call flow of the night.

“The voice calls were made from Ahmedabad. If an American victim called back, it would be routed to our office. On any given day, usually the call flow between 7 pm to midnight would be slow, but would get very hectic between 12 am and 2 am. At least a 100 calls were recorded on the floor during the busy hours every night,” the floor manager told The Indian Express. The manager claimed that he would use his mobile phone to contact one Amit in Ahmedabad to report the call flow.

The police is now on a manhunt for two people. “Thakkar had come in contact with one Tapesh and one Haidar, whom he roped in as investors. Haidar has been arrested, but we are on the lookout for Thakkar and Tapesh. Their arrests will give more clarity on how the accused gained access to the list of Americans,” said an investigator. An arrested accused claimed that the employees knew Thakkar only as Shaggy and would know of his visit by a fancy car parked below the building.

“He always visited the seventh floor of the call centre off the Western Express Highway at Mira Road. His visits were very discreet. We would know he was visiting only by the fancy car with three armed bodyguards. We could see the car in our coffee breaks,” the accused said. Meanwhile, police investigation have found at least four more call centres at Mira Road off the Bhayandar-Mira Link Road which have also been working under the wanted conspirators.

According to investigators, scripts similar to those found at the raided call centres have been found. The new scripts in possession with the police suggest that the dialers of these locations were even impersonating US Treasury officials.

The Thane police are investigating likely links between the call centre fraud and two Indians deported from the US last year after being found guilty of impersonating IRS officials. The Thane police will probe whether the duo is connected to the IRS scam busted earlier this week following raids on Mira Road call centres. The deported Indians were arrested in September 2015 in New Jersey. The 32-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman were allegedly responsible for duping 70 US nationals across 32 states of nearly USD 15,000. “That was a rare arrest and the duo were collecting cash on behalf of Indian counterparts. We will follow that case and look for any connections,” said a senior Thane police officer. According to investigators, the 32-year-old man was visiting the US when he was arrested, while the woman was believed to be living on an expired visa.