Indian national pleads guilty to role in nationwide tech support refund scam
HOUSTON – A 27-year-old Indian citizen illegally present in the United States who had resided in Houston has entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Sumit Kumar Singh admitted to participating in a fraud ring from 2018 – 2020 which operated out of various cities, including Houston. The scheme targeted elderly victims throughout the United States and elsewhere.
The ring tricked and deceived victims using various ruses and instructed them to send money via wire through a money transmitter business such as Western Union or MoneyGram, by buying gift cards and providing to the fraudsters and by mailing cash to alias names via FedEx or UPS.
One such scheme involved the claim of providing computer technical support services in order to gain remote access to victims’ computers. The fraud ring tricked and deceived victims into believing a technical support company purportedly helped them with their computers. They then told the victims they had erroneously refunded or overpaid them and that the victim needed to return the overpayment in cash via FedEx or UPS.
The scheme generally worked because fraudsters contacted victims by phone or via internet sites directing them to a particular phone number. Once victims contacted them, they were told various stories to include the victim was communicating with a technical support center that needed remote access to their computer in order to provide technical support services. Once a victim provided such access, the fraudsters gained access to their personal data and bank and credit card information.
Victims typically paid a fee to conspirators for the alleged technical support but were later told they were due a refund. Through paying for “technical support” or through the “refund” process, the ring gained access to the victim’s bank account(s) and credit cards and manipulated the accounts to make it appear the victim was paid too large a refund due to a typographical error (e.g., a victim received a refund of $10,000 instead of the intended refund amount of $100). Victims were then instructed to reimburse the ring by various means.
Victims were sometimes re-victimized multiple times and threatened with bodily harm if they did not pay.
Today, Singh admitted to acting as a runner to pick up parcels of victim cash using fraudulent international driver’s licenses in fake names.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt accepted the plea and set sentencing for Dec. 20. At that time, Singh faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine. He will remain in custody while awaiting sentencing.
The FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and IRS-Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation with assistance from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Belinda Beek and Quincy Ollison are prosecuting the case.