India-based call center employees impersonated IRS, USCIS officers to bilk US victims.
An Indian national has been convicted in the Southern District of Texas for his role in operating India-based call centers that defrauded Americans out of millions of dollars between 2013 and 2016.
Hitesh Madhubhai Patel, 43, pleaded guilty Thursday to wire fraud conspiracy, identification fraud, access device fraud, money laundering, and impersonation of a federal officer, Justice Department said in a press release.
“Hitesh Patel played a prominent role in this massive, India-based fraud scheme that bilked vulnerable Americans out of millions of dollars,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.
US District Judge David Hittner accepted Patel’s plea and set sentencing for April 3.
He faces up to 20 years in prison for the wire fraud conspiracy and five years for the general conspiracy, both of which carry also the possibility of a fine of up to $250,000.
As part of his plea, Patel admitted that employees from his call centers in Ahmedabad, India, impersonated officials from the IRS and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to defraud victims across the US.
American victims were threatened with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged monies owed to the government.
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These victim were instructed how to provide payment, including by purchasing general purpose reloadable (GPR) cards or wiring money.
Upon payment, the call centers would immediately turn to a network of “runners” based in the US to liquidate and launder the fraudulently obtained funds, the release said.
In his plea, Patel admitted to operating and funding several India-based call centers from which the fraud schemes were perpetrated, including the call center HGLOBAL.
Patel corresponded by email and WhatsApp messaging frequently with his co-defendants to exchange telephone scam scripts.
The scripts included impersonation of IRS, USCIS, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), Australian Tax Office (ATO) and payday loan, US Government grant, and debt collection frauds
Patel also received monthly income and expense reports to his personal email from the call centers, and used his Indian cell phone number to access GPR cards through automated telephone systems on many occasions, Justice Department said.
A co-defendant described Patel as “the top person in India and the boss for whom most of the other defendants worked,” and the owner of multiple call centers.
Another co-defendant stated that Patel was arrested in India in 2016, but paid a bribe to get himself released.
Additionally, Patel admitted that a reasonably foreseeable loss of more than $25 million but less than $65 million was attributable to him, based on the prosecution evidence against him.
Singapore authorities arrested Patel in September 2018 at the US request after Patel flew there from India.
He was extradited from Singapore in April 2019 to face charges in the telefraud and money laundering scheme.
A total of 24 domestic defendants have previously been convicted and sentenced to up to 20 years imprisonment in Texas, Arizona and Georgia.
The defendants were also ordered to pay millions of dollars in victim restitution and money judgments and to forfeit seized assets.
Some defendants were ordered to be deported based on their illegal immigration status, with another defendant having his US citizenship revoked due to a separate conviction for immigration fraud.
Charges remain pending for other India-based defendants.
A Department of Justice website has been established to provide information about the case to victims and the public.
Indian national behind IRS scam sentenced, faces deportation (January 31, 2016)