Indian National Sentenced To More Than Eight Years For Call Center Scam
Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington has sentenced Nishitkumar Patel (31, Tampa) to eight years and nine months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, relating to his participation in an India-based call center scam. As part of his sentence, the court also entered a money judgment of $200,000, and ordered Patel to forfeit cash and a 2015 Land Rover that was seized in October 2018.
Patel pleaded guilty on January 9, 2019.
According to court documents, from 2014 through at least 2016, Patel conspired with U.S.-based coconspirators and India-based call centers to extort money from U.S. residents by impersonating IRS officers and misleading victims to believe that they owed money to the IRS and would be arrested and fined if they did not pay their alleged back taxes immediately. The conspirators collected the fraud proceeds by (1) withdrawing cash from prepaid cards purchased and funded by victims; (2) hiring other conspirators (runners) to retrieve money wired by the victims to those runners; and/or (3) hiring runners to open bank accounts into which victims deposited fraud proceeds. The defendants collected the proceeds by providing the runners with the victims’ names, locations, and amounts paid. The runners were directed to retrieve the fraud proceeds in cash and turn the funds over to the defendants, often less a payment to the runner for opening the account or conducting the transaction.
Four others previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme. On March 25, 2019, Alejandro Juarez was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. Hemalkumar Shah, Sharvil Patel, and Brenda Dozier are currently awaiting sentencing.
“As a proud IRS Special Agent of 20 years, this fraud infuriates me,” stated Special Agent in Charge Mary Hammond of IRS Criminal Investigations Tampa Field Office. “We here at IRS CI recognize the heartache and concern these crooks cause innocent people. This is why we are eager to team up with our law enforcement partners to track down these impersonators in whatever corner of the globe they may be hiding in.”
“This terrible scam took advantage of people who wanted to comply with what they thought were proper authorities,” said FDLE’s Tampa Special Agent in Charge Mark Brutnell. “Thank goodness, investigators from several agencies were able to put an end to it and those responsible will no longer be able to mislead innocent people.”
“Over the last several years, American taxpayers have been subjected to unprecedented attempts to fraudulently obtain money by individuals impersonating Internal Revenue Service employees,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “Victimizing taxpayers by impersonating IRS employees is a serious crime,” George continued. “TIGTA and our law enforcement partners will continue working to ensure that those involved in the impersonation of IRS employees are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This significant sentencing should serve notice to those who engage in this type of criminal activity that they will be held accountable.”
This case was investigated by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Tampa Police Department, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rachel K. Jones.