Couple pleads guilty to laundering money for India-based phone scammers

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Police escort men who they said were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of tricking American citizens into sending them money by posing as U.S. tax officials, at a court in Thane, on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

An Indian-American couple pleaded guilty to helped criminal India-based call centers prey on and steal from vulnerable members of the community.

According to an Oct. 6, 2020 press release from U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak of the Northern District of Georgia, husband and wife Mehulkumar Manubhai Patel and Chaitali Dave were part of the large conspiracy where callers from India posed as federal agents or tech support.

Patel, 36, and Dave, 36, of Lexington, South Carolina, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg on Sept. 1, 2020 and on October 6, 2020 respectively.

The Indian call centers instructed victims to mail packages of cash that Patel and Dave retrieved using fake identifications.

As part of their Social Security scam, India-based callers posed 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, and 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.

Based on misrepresentations made during the calls, the victims, including Georgia residents, mailed money to a network of individuals that laundered funds on behalf of the overseas fraud network.  From on or about May 2019, to on or about January 2020, Patel and Dave laundered over $500,000 sent by dozens of scam victims.

“It is important to remind family and friends to never provide money or personal information to unknown callers when they receive a suspicious call,” Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, is quoted saying in the press release. “People should just hang up and then go online to oig.ssa.gov to report these scams to Social Security.”

 

 

 

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