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Sunday, August 19, 2018
HomeNewsUSTwo Dozen Sentenced in Massive India-Based Phone Scam Targeting U.S. Citizens

Two Dozen Sentenced in Massive India-Based Phone Scam Targeting U.S. Citizens

Phone Scam Fraud Call Solicitation 3D graphic concept Illustration. (Photo: AdobeStock)
Phone Scam Fraud Call Solicitation 3D graphic concept Illustration. (Photo: AdobeStock)

Phone Scam Fraud Call Solicitation 3D graphic concept Illustration. (Photo: AdobeStock)

Two dozen defendants were sentenced for running a massive India-based phone scam defrauding thousands in the U.S. out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Individuals from call centers in Ahmedabad, India, impersonated officials from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) threatened U.S. victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged monies owed to the government.

“The stiff sentences imposed this week represent the culmination of the first-ever large scale, multi-jurisdiction prosecution targeting the India call center scam industry,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “This case represents one of the most significant victories to date in our continuing efforts to combat elder fraud and the victimization of the most vulnerable members of the U.S. public.”

While 3 conspirators were sentenced earlier this year for laundering proceeds for the conspiracy, 21 were sentenced this week in Houston. The Honorable David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas handed out terms of imprisonment up to 20 years.

“This type of fraud is sickening,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick of the Southern District of Texas. “However, after years of investigation and incredible hard work by multiple agents and attorneys, these con artists are finally headed to prison. Their cruel tactics preyed on some very vulnerable people, thereby stealing millions from them.”

Miteshkumar Patel, 42, of Illinois, was sentenced to serve 240 months in prison followed by another 3 years of supervised release on the charge of money laundering conspiracy. According to his plea agreement, Patel served as the manager of a Chicago-based crew of “runners” who liquidated and laundered the proceeds generated by the phone scam carried out at India-based call centers.

Individuals at the call centers used call scripts and lead lists to target U.S. victims with phone schemes, in which they impersonated U.S. government officials from the IRS and USCIS. After the victims transferred money to the callers under threat of imprisonment or deportation, a network of U.S.-based runners moved to quickly liquidate and launder proceeds through the use of anonymous stored value cards.

In addition to recruiting, training, and tasking runners in his crew, Patel also coordinated directly with the Indian side of the conspiracy about the operation of the scheme. Patel was held accountable for laundering between $9.5 and $25 million for the scheme.

“These sentences should send a strong message that we will follow the trail no matter how difficult and seek justice for those victimized by these types of transnational schemes,” U.S. Attorney Patrick added. “We will simply not stand by and allow criminals to use the names of legitimate government agencies to enrich themselves by victimizing others.”

Hardik Patel, 31, of Illinois, was sentenced to 188 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release on the charge of wire fraud conspiracy. Upon completion of his prison term, he will be deported back to India. According to his plea agreement, Patel was a co-owner and manager of an India-based call center involved in the conspiracy.

He managed the day-to-day operations of a call center, processed payments and did bookkeeping for the various call centers involved in the fraud scheme. One of the India-based co-defendants with whom Patel communicated about the scheme was Sagar “Shaggy” Thakar, a payment processor that Indian authorities arrested in April 2017 in connection with call center fraud.

After moving to the U.S. in 2015, Patel continued to promote the conspiracy by recruiting runners to liquidate fraud proceeds. Patel was held accountable for laundering between $3.5 and $9.5 million dollars for the scheme.

“Today’s sentences should serve as a strong deterrent to anyone considering taking part in similar scams, and I hope that they provide a sense of justice to the victims, as well,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Acting Executive Associate Director Derek N. Benner. “There is no safe haven from U.S. law enforcement.”

“HSI will continue to utilize our unique investigative mandate, in conjunction with our local, state, and federal partners, to attack and dismantle the criminal enterprises who would seek to manipulate U.S. institutions and taxpayers.”

Sunny Joshi, aka Sharad Ishwarlal Joshi and Sunny Mahashanker Joshi, 47, of Texas, was sentenced to serve 151 months in prison on the charge of money laundering conspiracy, and 120 months in prison on the charge of naturalization fraud to run concurrent. They will be followed by 3 years of supervised release.

According to his plea agreement, Joshi was a member of a Houston-based crew of runners that he co-managed with his brother, co-defendant Mike Joshi, aka Rajesh Bhatt. He communicated extensively with India-based co-defendants about the operations of the scheme, and was held accountable for laundering between $3.5 and $9.5 million.

Additionally, Judge Hittner entered an order revoking Joshi’s U.S. citizenship and requiring him to surrender his certificate of naturalization. Eighteen other defendants — viewable below — were also sentenced in Houston before Judge Hittner this week.

“The sentences imposed this week provide a clear deterrent to those who would seek to enrich themselves by extorting the most vulnerable in our society,” said DHS-OIG Special Agent in Charge Green. “These scammers should know that their actions carry real consequences, both for their victims and for themselves, and that there are dedicated agents and prosecutors who will go above and beyond to find them, identify them and hold them accountable for their crimes.”

Twenty-two of the defendants sentenced before Judge Hittner were held jointly and severally liable for restitution in the amount of $8,970,396, payable to identified victims. Additionally, the court entered individual preliminary orders of forfeiture against 21 defendants for assets that were seized in the case, and money judgments totaling over $72,942,300.

The indictment in this case also charged 32 India-based conspirators and five India-based call centers with general conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy. But these defendants have yet to be arraigned in this case.

The IRS implored Americans to remain vigilant and “wary of unsolicited telephone calls from individuals claiming to be IRS employees.”

“The sentences imposed on these defendants validate our efforts to bring to justice scammers who defraud taxpayers by impersonating employees of the Internal Revenue Service,” said Inspector General J. Russell George. “If any taxpayer believes they or someone they know is a victim of an IRS impersonation scam, they should report it to TIGTA at www.tigta.gov or by calling 1-800-366-4484.”

Attorney General Sessions vowed to continue to bring the full power of the DOJ down on those responsible for these fraud schemes.

“The transnational criminal ring of fraudsters and money launderers who conspired to bilk older Americans, legal immigrants and many others out of their life savings through their lies, threats and financial schemes must recognize that all resources at the Department’s disposal will be deployed to shut down these telefraud schemes, put those responsible in jail, and bring a measure of justice to the victims.”

Sentences before Judge Hittner this week:

  • Fahad Ali, 25, of Indiana, was sentenced to serve 108 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Judge Hittner also recommended deportation upon completion of his sentence.
  • Montu Barot, 30, of Illinois, was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy.  Judge Hittner entered a stipulated judicial order to remove Barot to India at the conclusion of his sentence.
  • Rajesh Bhatt, aka Mike Joshi, 53, of Texas, was sentenced to serve 145 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Judge Hittner entered a stipulated judicial order to remove Bhatt to India at the conclusion of his sentence.
  • Ashvinbhai Chaudhari, 28, of Texas, was sentenced to serve 87 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.
  • Jagdish Chaudhari, 39, of Alabama, was sentenced to serve 108 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Judge Hittner entered a stipulated judicial order to remove Chaudhari to India at the conclusion of his sentence.
  • Rajesh Kumar, 39, of Arizona, was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy.  Judge Hittner recommended deportation to India following his prison sentence.
  • Jerry Norris, 47, of California, was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy.
  • Nilesh Pandya, 54, of Texas, was sentenced to serve three years probation on one count of conspiracy.
  • Nilam Parikh, 46, of Alabama, was sentenced to serve 48 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.
  • Bharatkumar Patel, 43, of Illinois, was sentenced to serve 50 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Judge Hittner entered a judicial order to remove Patel to India at the conclusion of his sentence.
  • Bhavesh Patel, 47, of Alabama, was sentenced to serve 121 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.
  • Dilipkumar A. Patel, 53, of California, was sentenced to serve 108 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy.  Judge Hittner entered a stipulated judicial order to remove Patel to India at the conclusion of his sentence.
  • Dilipkumar R. Patel, 39, of Florida, was sentenced to serve 52 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy.
  • Harsh Patel, 28, of New Jersey, was sentenced to serve 82 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Judge Hittner also recommended deportation upon completion of his sentence.
  • Nisarg Patel, 26, of New Jersey, was sentenced to serve 48 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy.  Judge Hittner recommended deportation to India following his prison sentence.
  • Praful Patel, 50, of Florida, was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of conspiracy.
  • Rajubhai Patel, 32, of Illinois, was sentenced to serve 151 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.
  • Viraj Patel, 33, of California, was sentenced to serve 165 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of money laundering conspiracy.  Judge Hittner entered a stipulated judicial order to remove Patel to India at the conclusion of his sentence.

Previous sentences before Judge Hittner:

  • Asmitaben Patel, 34, of Illinois, was sentenced before Judge Hittner in the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, on March 23.  She was sentenced to serve 24 months in prison on the charge of conspiracy.
  • Dipakkumar Patel, 38, of Illinois, was sentenced before Judge Eleanor L. Ross in the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, on Feb. 14.  Patel, who pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and passport fraud, was sentenced to serve a prison term of 51 months, to run concurrently.  He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $128,006.26.
  • Raman Patel, 82, of Arizona, was sentenced before Judge John Tuchi in the District of Arizona, Phoenix Division, on Jan. 29.  In connection with his plea agreement, Raman Patel received a probationary sentence for his plea to conspiracy.  He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $76,314.38.
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Latest comments

  • Bravo! I’ve had calls from these criminals.

  • Awesome 👍

  • I NEVER send money to anyone who calls. NEVER!

    • That’s good. There’s a shister around every cyber and tele-corner now.

  • They used to send letters asking for money before the internet. It’s such a joke

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