Two Plead Guilty for Participation in India-Based Call Center Scam That Targeted U.S. Consumers
individuals from call centers located in India impersonated officials from the IRS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
An Arizona man and an Illinois woman have each pleaded guilty to conspiracy for their respective roles in liquidating and laundering victim payments generated through a massive telephone impersonation fraud and money laundering scheme perpetrated by India-based call centers.
Bhavesh Patel, most recently residing in Gilbert, Arizona, pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy. Asmitaben Patel, most recently residing in Willowbrook, Illinois, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering offenses. The pleas were entered before U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas. Sentencing dates are pending.
Complex scheme of telephone scams
According to admissions made in connection with their respective pleas—both Patels and their co-conspirators perpetrated a complex scheme of telephone scams in which individuals from call centers located in India impersonated officials from the IRS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in a ruse designed to defraud victims located throughout the U.S.
Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, the call center operators targeted U.S. 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 on how to provide payment, including by purchasing stored value cards or wiring money. Upon payment, the call centers would immediately turn to a network of "runners" based in the U.S. to liquidate and launder the fraudulently-obtained funds.
The Guilty Pleas
According to Bhavesh Patel's guilty plea, beginning in or around January 2014, he managed the activities of a crew of runners, directing them to liquidate victim scam funds in areas in and around south and central Arizona per the instructions of conspirators from India-based call centers.
Patel communicated via telephone about the liquidation of scam funds with both domestic and India-based co-defendants, and he and his crew used reloadable cards containing funds derived from victims by scam callers to purchase money orders and deposit them into various bank accounts as directed. In return, he received a percentage-based commission from his India-based co-defendants. Patel also admitted to receiving and using fake identification documents, including phony driver's licenses, to retrieve victim scam payments in the form of wire transfers, and providing those fake documents to persons he managed for the same purpose.
Based on admissions in Asmitaben Patel's guilty plea, beginning in or around July 2013, she served as a runner liquidating victim scam funds as part of a group of conspirators operating in and around the Chicago area. At the direction of a co-defendant, Patel used stored value cards that had been loaded with victim funds to buy money orders and deposit them into various bank accounts, including the account of a lead generating business in order to pay the company for leads it provided to co-conspirators that were ultimately used to facilitate the scam.
The U.S. Department of Justice says that—to date—Bhavesh Patel, Asmitaben Patel, 54 other individuals and five India-based call centers have been charged for their roles in the fraud and money laundering scheme. A total of eleven defendants have pleaded guilty thus far in this case.
A Department of Justice website has been established to provide information about the case to already identified and potential victims and the public. Anyone who believes they may be a victim of fraud or identity theft in relation to this investigation or other telefraud scam phone calls should contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).