New Jersey, Florida, Arizona and Pennsylvania Men Latest to Plead Guilty in Multimillion Dollar India-Based Call Center Scam Targeting U.S. Victims
Four more defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy and passport fraud charges during the past month 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 centers.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez of the Southern District of Texas, U.S. Attorney John A. Horn of the Northern District of Georgia, Acting Deputy Director Peter T. Edge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Inspector General J. Russell George of the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and Inspector General John Roth of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG) made the announcement.
Nisarg Patel, 26, most recently residing in Flemington, N.J., Dilipkumar Ramanlal Patel, 30, of Ocala, Fla., and Rajesh Kumar, 39, of Mesa, Ariz., each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering offenses. The pleas were entered before U.S. District Judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas. All three men have been in federal custody since their arrests in October 2016 and will remain detained until their pending sentencing dates.
In a related case, Dipakkumar Sankalchand Patel, 38, most recently of Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The plea was entered before U.S. District Court Judge Eleanor L. Ross of the Northern District of Georgia. Dipakkumar Sankalchand Patel has been in federal custody since his arrest in May 2017 and will remain detained until his pending sentencing date.
According to admissions made in connection with their pleas, Nisarg Patel, Dilipkumar Ramanlal Patel, Kumar, Dipakkumar Sankalchand Patel and their co-conspirators perpetrated a complex scheme in which individuals from call centers located in Ahmedabad, India, impersonated officials from the IRS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and engaged in other telephone call scams, in a ruse designed to defraud victims located throughout the U.S. Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, 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 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.
In connection with his guilty plea, Nisarg Patel admitted that beginning in or 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 organizational co-defendant HGLOBAL. Patel communicated about the fraudulent scheme with various India-based co-defendants via telephone, email and WhatsApp text messaging. For a percentage of commission on the transactions he conducted, Patel laundered funds from victims using reloadable cards and deposited those proceeds into various bank accounts or shipped them via package carriers to others in furtherance of the scheme and at the direction of a codefendant. Patel also admitted to receiving direct payments to his personal bank accounts from victims defrauded through the scheme.
In connection with his guilty plea, Dilipkumar Ramanlal Patel admitted that beginning in or around August 2013 and continuing through February 2014, he served as a runner, liquidating victim scam funds per the instructions of conspirators from India-based call centers. Dilipkumar Ramanlal Patel communicated via phone and email in furtherance of the criminal scheme with his India-based associates, including by sending lists of reloadable card numbers to be activated and loaded with victim funds by conspirators in India. Dilipkumar Ramanlal Patel and his conspirators then used the 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 for cash payments or commissions.
Based on admissions in Kumar’s plea, beginning in or around September 2014, 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. Kumar also admitted to using fraudulent identification documents, including drivers’ licenses, to receive wire transfers of money directly from victims of the fraud scheme.
According to Dipakkumar Sankalchand Patel’s guilty plea, beginning in or around September 2014 through in or around June 2015, Dipakkumar Sankalchand Patel served as a runner liquidating victim scam funds per the instructions of conspirators operating in the Chicago, Illinois, area and elsewhere throughout the country. Dipakkumar Sankalchand Patel communicated via WhatsApp messaging with U.S. and India-based associates about liquidating victim funds that had been consolidated on reloadable cards. Dipakkumar Sankalchand Patel then purchased money orders and deposited them into various bank accounts as directed. Additionally, Dipakkumar Sankalchand Patel admitted to entering the U.S. on or about March 26, 2012 through Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport on a fraudulent Portuguese passport that was issued to him under an alias.
To date, Nisarg Patel, Dilipkumar Ramanlal Patel, Kumar, 53 other individuals and five India-based call centers have been charged for their roles in the fraud and money laundering scheme in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas on Oct. 19, 2016. Dipakkumar Sankalchand Patel was charged via a separate indictment in the Northern District of Georgia on May 3. Including the pleas announced today, a total of 17 defendants have pleaded guilty thus far in relation to this investigation on various dates between April and July 2017.
The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, DHS-OIG and TIGTA led the investigation of this case. Also providing significant support were: the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs; Ft. Bend County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office; police departments in Hoffman Estates and Naperville, Illinois, and Leonia, New Jersey; San Diego County District Attorney’s Office Family Protection and Elder Abuse Unit; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General; IOC-2; INTERPOL Washington; USCIS; U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service; and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Middle District of Alabama, Northern District of Alabama, District of Arizona, Central District of California, Northern District of California, District of Colorado, Northern District of Florida, Middle District of Florida, Northern District of Illinois, Northern District of Indiana, District of Nevada and District of New Jersey. The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau also provided assistance in TIGTA’s investigation.
Senior Trial Attorney Michael Sheckels and Trial Attorney Mona Sahaf of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, Trial Attorney Amanda Wick of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, Assistant U.S. Attorneys S. Mark McIntyre and Craig M. Feazel of the Southern District of Texas, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica C. Morris of the Northern District of Georgia are prosecuting these cases.
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 may contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) via this website.
Anyone who wants additional information about telefraud scams generally, or preventing identity theft or fraudulent use of their identity information, may obtain helpful information on the IRS tax scams website, the FTC phone scam website and the FTC identity theft website.