US charges 32 Indians for alleged involvement in call centre scam

The indictment by the US Justice Department has come after the Thane police raided over 13 illegal call centres earlier this month.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai | Updated: October 28, 2016 9:22 am
irs scam, mumbai call centre raid, mumbai call centre scam, irs call centre scam, mumbai news, indian express news, One of the call centres raided by Thane Police. (Express Photo)

The US Justice Department on Thursday charged 61 individuals and entities in India and the US for their alleged involvement in a multimillion dollar fraud suspected to have been perpetrated by at least five Indian call centres based in Ahmedabad in the last three years.

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“In connection with the scheme, 20 individuals were arrested today in the United States and 32 individuals and five call centres in India were charged for their alleged involvement,” said a statement issued by the US Justice Department.

The indictment by the US Justice Department comes after the Thane police raided over 13 illegal call centres earlier this month in connection with an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) impersonation scam, in which employees of the call centres extorted about Rs 500 crore from 6,000 US citizens by posing as US tax officials.

Thane Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh said they were not aware of the details of the people who have been charged. “I am not aware of the identities of the people who have been charged by the US,” he said.

An FBI agent had met the Thane police earlier and shared information about the scam. A senior officer, however, said that apart from the names of the accused already out in the media,there were no specific names shared with the US agency that could have led to these people being charged.

According to the US Justice Department statement, the fraudsters along with their conspirators in India, including a network of call centres in Ahmedabad, used information obtained from data brokers and allegedly called potential victims impersonating officials from the IRS or US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The call centre operators then threatened the potential victims with arrest, fines or deportation if they did not pay taxes or penalties to the government.

If the victims agreed to pay, the call centres would then immediately turn to a network of US-based co-conspirators to liquidate and launder the extorted funds as quickly as possible by purchasing prepaid debit cards or through wire transfers.

“The prepaid debit cards were often registered using misappropriated personal identifying information of thousands of identity theft victims, and the wire transfers were directed by the criminal associates using fake names and fraudulent identifications.”

“The co-conspirators allegedly used hawalas, in which money is transferred internationally outside of the formal banking system, to direct the extorted funds to accounts belonging to US-based individuals. The co-conspirators also allegedly kept a percentage of the proceeds for themselves,” said the statement.