Florida judge sentences Indian national to more than 8 years for international call center scam

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U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington has sentenced Nishitkumar Patel, 31, of Tampa, Florida, to eight years and nine months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, relating to his participation in an India-based call center scam.

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

As part of his sentence, Patel has to also pay $200,000, and forfeit cash and a 2015 Land Rover that was seized in October 2018, according to an April 1, press release from the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida.

Patel pleaded guilty on January 9, this year.

Many Indians living in the United States, citizens and those with permanent residency, have been subjected to these calls, including this correspondent, going by anecdotal evidence.

According to court documents, from 2014 through at least 2016, Patel conspired with U.S.-based co-conspirators and India-based call centers to extort money from U.S. residents by impersonating IRS officers and misleading victims to believe that they owed money to the IRS and would be arrested and fined if they did not pay their alleged back taxes immediately.

Those involved in the scheme collected the money by (1) withdrawing cash from prepaid cards purchased and funded by victims; (2) hiring other conspirators (runners) to retrieve money wired by the victims to those runners; and/or (3) hiring runners to open bank accounts into which victims deposited fraud proceeds.

The defendants collected the proceeds by providing the runners with the victims’ names, locations, and amounts paid. The runners were directed to retrieve the fraud proceeds in cash and turn the funds over to the defendants, often less a payment to the runner for opening the account or conducting the transaction.

Four others previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme. On March 25, 2019, Alejandro Juarez was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. Hemalkumar Shah, Sharvil Patel, and Brenda Dozier are currently awaiting sentencing.

“Over the last several years, American taxpayers have been subjected to unprecedented attempts to fraudulently obtain money by individuals impersonating Internal Revenue Service employees,” J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, is quoted saying in the press release.  …This significant sentencing should serve notice to those who engage in this type of criminal activity that they will be held accountable.”

 

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