A 42-year-old Indian-American has pleaded guilty to liquidating and laundering money in the US through India-based call centres, becoming the seventh person of Indian-origin to admit his role in the massive telephone impersonation fraud. Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, call center operators targeted victims who were threatened with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged monies owed to the US government.
Miteshkumar Patel, 42, resident in Illinois, joined six other defendants who recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in the scam. Patel pleaded guilty to his role in liquidating and laundering victim payments generated through a massive telephone impersonation fraud and money laundering scheme perpetrated by a network of India-based call centres.
The scam defrauded American residents of hundreds of millions of dollars, the Justice Department said. Sunny Joshi of Texas, Jagdish Kumar Chaudhari of Alabama and Rajesh Bhatt of Texas each pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy. Raman Patel of Arizona, Praful Patel of Florida and Jerry Norris of California, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering offenses.
The pleas were entered before US district court Judge David Hittner of the southern District of Texas between September 22 and November 13, except for Raman Patel’s plea, which was entered before US district Court Judge Michelle Burns in the district of Arizona on November 6. Six of the men have been in federal custody since their arrests in October 2016 and will remain detained until their pending sentencing dates, the Department of Justice said.
According to admissions made in connection with their pleas, the accused perpetrated a complex scheme in which individuals from call centers located in Ahmedabad, impersonated officials from the Internal Revenue Service and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, call centre operators targeted US 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 general purpose reloadable (GPR) cards or wiring money. Upon payment, the call centres would immediately turn to a network of “runners” based in the US to liquidate and launder the fraudulently obtained funds, federal prosecutors said.
According to guilty plea, Miteshkumar Patel, beginning around 2013, managed a crew of a half dozen domestic runners involved in the criminal scheme, liquidating as much as approximately million in victim funds for conspirators from India-based call center and an organisational co-defendant. Patel communicated about the fraudulent scheme with various domestic and India-based co-defendants via email, text messaging and WhatsApp messaging.
Patel further admitted to using a gas station he owned in Racine, Wisconsin to liquidate victim funds, and possessing and using equipment at his Illinois apartment to make fraudulent identification documents. These documents were used by co-defendant runners in his crew to receive wire transfers directly from scam victims and make bank deposits in furtherance of the conspiracy.