Another Indian national sentenced in phone scam targeting U.S. victims

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Mehboob Mansurali Charania has been sentenced for his involvement in what the Justice Department calls “a transnational criminal organization” that victimized more than 340 people in the United States through a fraudulent India-based call-center scheme, resulting in over $200,000 in losses.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) logo is pictured on a wall after a news conference to discuss alleged fraud by Russian Diplomats in New York December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Charania, a citizen of India, who moved to Tucker, Georgia in 2014, has been sentenced to one year, four months in prison to be followed by three years supervised release, and ordered to pay a $100 special assessment, and pay restitution of $203,958.02 to victims of the scheme.  Charania was convicted on January 17, 2019, after he pleaded guilty to engaging in an unlicensed money transfer business.

“The phone scheme Charania was a part of used lies, intimidation, and fear to extort or outright steal from unsuspecting citizens,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “Our law enforcement partners regularly uncover thieves who believe they found a new way to steal.  As Charania learned in this case though, law enforcement was well aware of these schemes.”

According to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, “Since October 2013, more than 15,000 victims have suffered over $75 million in losses to the perpetrators of telephone scammers who impersonate IRS employees.” This has involved impersonating IRS employees. “Our investigations have identified 140 scammers who, like Mr. Charania, have or are, facing federal criminal proceedings,” George added.

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: The defendant took part in a sophisticated scheme organized in India, that included a network of call centers.  Call center operators called U.S. residents over the telephone and misled the potential victims into sending money utilizing a number of different confidence scams.

The scams included impersonation scams where the callers pretended to be Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) employees demanding payment of taxes and fees.  Other scams included grant scams where callers directed victims to pay upfront fees for fictitious grants, student loan scams where callers threatened victims if they did not pay fictitious taxes and fees associated with student loans, and hacking scams where callers would gain remote access to the victim’s computer, lock the victim out of the computer, and deny access to the computer until the victim provided payment.

According to evidence cited in the press release, if the victims agreed to pay, the call centers would have the victims send the funds to the attention of fictitious names used by Charania through wire transfers, including through MoneyGram and Western Union.  Charania also would conduct hawala money transfers by transferring proceeds to bank accounts as directed by an individual in India.

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