Federal agents have arrested Indian American husband and wife duo Mehulkumar Manubhai Patel and Chitali Dave for laundering over $400,000 on behalf of India-based phone scammers.
“Criminal India-based call centers sought to prey on vulnerable members of our community and steal from them by misleading them over the phone,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak, in a statement, released by the US Justice Department. “Those, like Patel and Dave, who allegedly launder money in the United States on behalf of foreign-based fraudsters, are the linchpins of those schemes.”
Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, said in a statement: “People who receive suspicious calls should just hang up, and never give out their personal information. They should go online to oig.ssa.gov to report these Social Security scams.”
“This arraignment is a bold statement that we will aggressively pursue overseas phone scammers—and their facilitators in this country—who are stealing Americans’ hard-earned money,” said Inspector General Ennis, in a statement. “I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Georgia for bringing these charges, and our law enforcement partners for their efforts in investigating these scams and bringing the perpetrators to justice.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: Criminal India-based call centers defraud U.S. residents, including the elderly, by misleading victims over the telephone utilizing scams such as Social Security and tech support scams.
As part of their Social Security scam, India-based callers pose as federal agents in order to mislead victims into believing their Social Security numbers were involved in crimes. Callers threatened arrest and the loss of the victims’ assets if the victims did not send money. The callers directed victims to mail cash to aliases used by other members of the fraud network, including Patel and Dave.
As part of the tech support scam, callers allegedly induced victims to send money in exchange for supposed technical support for their computers. The callers then provided nothing in return. At times, callers misled the victims into providing remote access to their computers and the callers would access the victims’ bank accounts. The callers routinely misled the victims by making it appear as though the caller added money to the victims’ bank accounts. The callers then instructed the victims to mail cash to aliases used by other members of the fraud network, including Patel and Dave.
Based on misrepresentations made during the calls, the victims, including a number of Georgia residents, mailed money to a network of individuals that allegedly laundered funds on behalf of the overseas fraud network. From on or about May 2019, to on or about January 2020, Patel and Dave allegedly laundered over $400,000 sent by at least twenty-four victims of the scams.
On June 9, 2020, Mehulkumar Manubhai Patel, 36, and Chitali Dave, 36, both of Lexington, South Carolina, were charged by a federal grand jury with money laundering conspiracy and money laundering. Patel was arraigned on June 19, 2020 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher C. Bly. Defendant Dave was arraigned on July 14, 2020 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda T. Walker.
Separately, on July 9, 2020, the U.S. District Court Judge William M. Ray, II sentenced defendant Joish Patel to over two years in prison by for his role in a criminal India-based phone scam.
In 2017, Patel picked up over $140,000 dollars in victim funds using fake IDs. Some victims in that case sent money to aliases used by Joish Patel in response to an IRS scam where callers claimed they owed taxes or would be arrested. Other victims were tricked into believing that they needed to send money in order to qualify for loans.