Indo-Canadian brothers Firoz Patel, 43, and Ferhan Patel, 37, of Montreal, Canada have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington D.C. on charges alleging they operated an Internet-based, unlicensed money service business, Payza.com, that processed more than $250 million in transactions from Ponzi schemes, child pornography rings and more, according to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement press release.
Both brothers have been charged with one count of conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business and to violate anti-money laundering program requirements, one count of a money laundering conspiracy and one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business in Washington D.C.
Ferhan was arrested on March 18 in Detroit and made his first appearance in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan the next day, he remains held pending further proceedings while his brother remains at large.
According to the press release, the indictment alleges that the criminal activity took place from March 2012 until present, during which the brothers are accused of operating a money transmitting business through Payza.com that operated without the necessary state licenses and knowingly transmitting funds that were derived from illegal activity.
Both of them were notified of the activity by a consultant but continued to commit the crime anyway.
The indictment also alleges that the Patels along with other co-conspirators, are responsible for transmitting over $250 million throughout the United States and elsewhere while the investigation still continues.
Payza’s customers included Ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes and a child pornography site.
The Patels opened up bank accounts in the United States as well and laundered their money from the illegal activity through those accounts.
The indictment also seeks forfeiture of any property involved in these offenses or traceable to these offenses, in addition, to the specific forfeiture of approximately $10 million that has already been seized and frozen.
“The arrest and indictments in this case demonstrate that we will vigorously enforce laws meant to protect the American consumer. Money transmitting businesses are required to be registered federally and licensed in most states and jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia. Consumers should beware of those that do not follow these laws because they could be acting as a cover for other illegal activity,” said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu.
“I am proud of the skilled and professional teams of investigators and attorneys involved in today’s indictment and commend their efforts. Through this type of routine interagency cooperation, we ensure our safe, reliable and just society,” Patrick J. Lechleitner, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Washington, D.C., added.
If convicted, each of them will face a maximum sentence of more than 25 years.