Three Indian nationals have been indicted for extortion and wire fraud relating to a massive, elaborate, international scam that garnered millions of dollars for scammers alleged to have impersonated Internal Revenue Service officials.
The United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Maria Chapa Lopez, announced the unsealing of an indictment Nov. 6, charging Nishitkumar Patel (31, Tampa), Hemalkumar Shah (27, Tampa), and Sharvil Patel (22, Tampa) with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and extortion, and substantive counts of wire fraud and extortion, a press release from her office, said.
The indictment also notifies the defendants that the United States is seeking a money judgment in the amount of at least $2.27 million, the proceeds of the wire fraud and extortion conspiracies.
The indictment also charges Nishitkumar Patel and Hemalkumar Patel with money laundering and aggravated identity theft.
An indictment is merely a formal charge and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
Each of the three defendants faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on each count of wire fraud conspiracy, extortion conspiracy, wire fraud, and extortion. Nishitkumar Patel and Hemalkumar Patel face an additional penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison for money laundering, and a minimum mandatory consecutive two years in prison for aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, from 2014 through at least 2016, the defendants allegedly conspired with India-based call centers to extort money from U.S. residents by impersonating IRS officers. The defendants allegedly misled their 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, so the victims would pay the defendants.
The defendants allegedly collected the fraud proceeds 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..
In order to collect the fraud proceeds, the defendants are alleged to have provided the runners with the victims’ names, locations, and amount paid. The defendants directed the runners to retrieve the fraud proceeds in cash, and remit it to the defendants, often less a payment to the runner for opening the account or conducting the transaction.
On October 23, 2018, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at the home of Nishitkumar Patel and Hemalkumar Patel. Among other items, they seized approximately $50,000 in cash, hundreds of bank and wire transfer receipts, and 20 electronic devices, according to the press release.