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Indian-origin men plead guilty in US call centre scam

LiveMint logoLiveMint 09-09-2017 Yoshita Singh

New York: Four Indian-origin men have pleaded guilty to charges of their involvement in a multi-million dollar telephone impersonation fraud and money laundering scheme in the US perpetrated by India-based call centres.

Nisarg Patel, 26, of New Jersey, Dilip Kumar Ramanlal Patel, 30, of Florida and Rajesh Kumar, 39, of Arizona, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering offences. The pleas were entered before US district judge David Hittner of the southern district of Texas. All three have been in federal custody since they were arrested in October 2016.

In a related case, Dipak Kumar Sankalchand Patel, a resident of Pennsylvania, also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He has been in federal custody since his arrest in May this year. Nisarg, Dilip and Rajesh and 53 others, besides five India-based call centers have been charged for frauding American people through a money laundering scheme in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the southern district of Texas in October last year.

According to admissions made in connection with their pleas, the three men and their accomplices perpetrated a complex scheme in which people from call centers located in Ahmedabad called people living in the US, posing as officials from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, the accused targeted threatened people in the US with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay money, which the accused alleged they owed to the US government. Those who agreed to pay money to the scammers were instructed how to make the payment, including by purchasing store value cards or wiring money. After the payment, the call centers would immediately turn to a network of “runners” based in the US to liquidate and launder the fraudulently obtained funds.

In connection with his guilty plea, Nisarg admitted that beginning in around June 2013 and continuing through December 2015, he acted as a domestic runner in the criminal scheme, liquidating victim funds for conspirators from India-based call centers and organisational co-defendant ‘HGLOBAL’. He communicated about the fraudulent scheme with various India-based co-defendants via telephone, email and WhatsApp text messaging.

Dilip Kumar admitted that he, too, had served as a runner, liquidating victim scam funds per the instructions from his accomplices in India, who were running the fake call centres. He communicated via phone and email in furtherance of the criminal scheme with his India-based associates, including by sending lists of re-loadable card numbers to be activated and loaded with funds siphoned off from the victims.

Kumar also operated as a runner, laundering scam proceeds from reloadable cards and purchasing money orders using those funds in and around south-central Arizona at the direction of both domestic and India-based co-defendants. He admitted to using fraudulent identification documents, including drivers’ licenses, to receive wire transfers of money directly from victims of the fraud scheme. PTI

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