Four Indian-Americans plead guilty in international phone scam

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A man in a business suit offers money

Indian Americans Nisarg Patel, 26, of Flemington, New Jersey; Dilipkumar R. Patel, 30, of Ocala, Florida and Rajesh Kumar, 39, of Mesa, Arizona, pleaded guilty to individual counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering offenses, and Dipakkumar S. Patel, 38, of Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in a related case in Georgia to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas in Houston.

According to Naperville police Cmdr. Lou Cammiso, the four men participated in “a complex scheme” involving call centers in Ahmedabad, India, which cost 16 residents about $88,000.

Cammiso confirmed that the men and others involved impersonated officials of the IRS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, claiming their victims owed back taxes and threatened them with fines, imprisonment or deportation if they failed to pay.

A detective assigned to investigate the local crimes soon realized “they were all related to this huge, ongoing federal case involving the same suspects and worked on this case with (federal investigators) for about three years,” Cammiso said.

According to the release, the scam operators used information they obtained from “data brokers” and other sources and would then “turn to a network of ‘runners’ based in the United States, to liquidate and launder” the stolen funds,

Those who agreed to pay “were instructed how to provide payment, including by purchasing stored value cards or wiring money.”

For example, Nisarg Patel was a runner between June 2013 and December 2015, during which he communicated with scam participants in India by telephone, email and WhatsApp text messaging, and earned commissions for the funds he laundered, putting some of the money into personal bank accounts.

Dipakkumar Patel served as a runner for in the Chicago area and elsewhere and he “purchased money orders (with the stolen funds) and deposited them into various bank accounts as directed.”

Authorities said the scheme involved a total of 56 people and five India-based call centers.

Hoffman Estates police and investigators from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Northern Illinois District participated in the probe, as did authorities in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, New Jersey and Texas, according to the release.

 

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