Manager admits to key role in Indian Call Center scam
HOUSTON - A 28-year-old Indian citizen has entered a guilty plea in a years-long international conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.
Between 2017 and 2020, Zaheen Malvi, who was illegally residing in Heber Springs, Arkansas, assisted Indian call centers in a telemarketing scheme that extorted millions of dollars from hundreds of victims in the United States. Malvi first acted as a runner in the scheme, going to different Target stores in the Chicago area and depleting funds from gift cards that victims had transferred to the call centers. In later years, Malvi managed other runners as they traveled around the country, picking up packages filled with cash that call center victims had mailed.
“The Indian call centers perpetrating these scams are relentless,” said Hamdani. “They prey on the fears and insecurities of the most vulnerable among us, such as the elderly. But we are relentless too. Today, one more criminal is finally held to account for the many years he helped funnel money from victims into the pockets of overseas scammers…and tomorrow, we keep working.”
One common script used in the scheme involved coercing victims into believing federal agents were investigating them. The “agent” on the phone would convince the victim the only way to clear his or her name from investigation was to buy gift cards and transfer the redemption codes to the call center or mail cash in a package to a name and address the call center provided. Runners in the United States would then deplete the gift card funds and pick up the packages.
As part of his plea agreement, Malvi will pay restitution to the scheme’s identified victims.
U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen accepted the plea and set sentencing for Aug. 14. At that time, Malvi faces up to 20 years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
He will remain in custody pending that hearing.
The Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG), Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Homeland Security Investigations in Houston and Fayetteville, Arkansas, conducted the investigation with the assistance of the FBI and Heber Springs Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephanie Bauman and Kate Suh are prosecuting the case.
The SSA and its OIG consistently warns people of similar scams. Protect yourself!