WASHINGTON: An Indian-American has pleaded guilty in a massive telephone impersonation fraud and money laundering scheme in the US perpetrated by India-based call centres. Miteshkumar Patel, 42, resident in Illinois, joined six other defendants who recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges for their roles 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 responsible for defrauding American residents of hundreds of millions of dollars, the Justice Department said.
Sunny Joshi of Texas, Jagdish Kumar Chaudhari of Alabama, and Rajesh Bhatt, 53, of Texas each pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy. Raman Patel, 82, of Arizona; Praful Patel, 50, of Florida; and Jerry Norris, 47, 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, Miteshkumar Patel, Raman Patel, Joshi, Jagdishkumar Chaudhari, Bhatt, Praful Patel, Norris and their co-conspirators perpetrated a complex scheme in which individuals from call centers located in Ahmedabad, impersonated officials from the IRS and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and engaged in other telephone call scams, in a ruse designed to defraud victims located throughout the US.
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 $25 million in victim funds for conspirators from India-based call center and organisational co-defendant HGLOBAL.
Mr Patel communicated about the fraudulent scheme with various domestic and India-based co-defendants via email, text messaging and WhatsApp messaging. Mr Patel and his runners purchased re-loadable GPR cards that were registered using the misappropriated personal identifying information (PII) of unsuspecting victims that were later used to receive victims’ funds, and used those re-loadable cards containing victims’ funds to purchase money orders and then deposit those money orders into bank accounts, as directed, while keeping a portion of the scam proceeds as profit.
He also trained the runners he managed on how to conduct the liquidation scheme, provided them with vehicles to conduct their activities in Illinois and throughout the country, and directed a co-defendant to open bank accounts and limited liability companies for use in the conspiracy.
Mr 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 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.