Twenty one members of a India-based call center fraud were sentenced to prison terms of up to 20 years in the United States, the U.S. Justice Department announced on July 20. The scam and money laundering conspiracy defrauded thousands of U.S. residents of hundreds of millions of dollars.
All the 21 individuals sentenced this week before Judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas are either Indians or naturalized Americans of Indian origin. Many of them will be deported back to India after the completion of their jail terms, which ranges from four years to 20 years.
“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,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.
Investigations in the case revealed that between 2012 and 2016, the defendants and their conspirators carried out a complex fraud and money laundering scheme in which individuals from call centers located in Ahmedabad, India, impersonated officials from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in a scheme created to defraud victims located throughout the United States. These call center operators used information obtained from data brokers and other sources, and threatened the victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged money owed to the government, the U.S. Justice Department said in the statement.
Victims who agreed to pay were instructed about how to pay, including by purchasing stored value cards or wiring money. Once the payment was done, the call centers used a network of runners based in the United States to liquidate and launder the extorted funds by purchasing reloadable cards or retrieving wire transfers. Call centers typically directed runners to purchase these reloadable cards and transmit the unique card number to India-based co-conspirators who registered the cards using the misappropriated personal identifying information (PII) of U.S. citizens. The India-based co-conspirators then loaded these cards with scam funds obtained from victims. The runners used the stored value cards to purchase money orders that they deposited into the bank account of another person, according to the statement.
Among those convicted are Miteshkumar Patel, 42, of Illinois, who was sentenced to a 240-month jail term followed by three years of supervised release on the charge of money laundering conspiracy. Patel was the manager of a Chicago-based crew of “runners” that liquidated and laundered fraud proceeds generated by callers at India-based call centers. He was held accountable for laundering between $9.5 and $25 million for the scheme.
Hardik Patel, 31, of Illinois, got 188 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on the charge of wire fraud conspiracy. He has agreed to be removed to India upon completion of his prison term. Patel was a co-owner and manager of an India-based call center involved in the conspiracy. One of the India-based co-defendants with whom Patel communicated about the scheme was Sagar “Shaggy” Thakar, a payment processor arrested by Indian authorities in April 2017 in connection with the call center fraud. Patel moved to the United States in 2015, and was held accountable for laundering between $3.5 and $9.5 million dollars.
Sunny Joshi, aka Sharad Ishwarlal Joshi, 47, of Texas, was sentenced to 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 followed by three years of supervised release. He was a member of a Houston-based crew of runners, and was held accountable for laundering between $3.5 and $9.5 million. The judge also ordered that Joshi’s U.S. citizenship be revoked.
The other convicts sentenced this week are Fahad Ali, Jagdishkumar Chaudhari, Dilip R Patel, Viraj Patel, Harsh Patel, Rajesh Bhatt, Bhavesh Patel, Jerry Norris, Nisarg Patel, Montu Barot, Praful Patel, Dilip A. Patel, Nilesh Pandya, Rajesh Kumar, Rajubhai Patel, Ashvinbhai Chaudhari, Bharatkumar Patel and Nilam Parikh.
Besides the 21 accused sentenced this week, three other conspirators were sentenced earlier this year over the scam. Twenty two of the defendants sentenced before Judge Hittner were held jointly and severally liable for restitution of $8,970,396 payable to identified victims of their crimes. 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 three individuals sentenced earlier over the same fraud scheme are Asmitaben Patel, 34, of Illinois, who was sentenced on March 23 to 24 months in prison; Dipakkumar Patel, 38, of Illinois, who was sentenced on Feb. 14 to 51 months in jail, and ordered to pay restitution amount of $128,006.26; and Raman Patel, 82, of Arizona, who was sentenced on Jan. 29 and received a probationary sentence for his plea to conspiracy, and ordered to pay restitution amount of $76,314.38.
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. These defendants have yet to be arraigned in this case.