A husband and wife were sentenced Nov. 6, 2020, for their roles in a sophisticated fraud scheme that primarily targeted elderly Americans
The sentence equals a combined 92 months in prison, 78 months for Chirag Choksi, 36, and 14 months for Shachi Majmudar, 36, his wife, both of whom are residents of Minnesota.
According to court documents, Choksi and Majmudar were members of a criminal conspiracy in which members used a variety of schemes, to defraud the elderly, a press release from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Easern District of Virginia, said.
Among the schemes was impersonating law enforcement officers and other government officials, to trick and force victims into mailing and shipping cash to other conspiracy members.
“The scope of fraud perpetrated through robocalls from overseas call centers is truly enormous,” U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger is quoted saying in the press release.
Quoting figures from the Federal Trade Commission, Terwilliger noted that in 2019 the FTC received nearly 400,000 complaints alleging imposter fraud claims totaling $152.9 million, which government officials suspect substantially underestimates the extent of fraud because many victims do not report their losses.
These schemes generally started with automated “robocalls” from a call center in India that were designed to create a sense of urgency with unsuspecting recipients. The messages typically told the recipient that they had some sort of serious legal problem, and that if they did not immediately take a particular action demanded by the callers then there will be drastic consequences.
Typically the recipients were threatened with arrest, significant financial penalties, or cessation of government benefits.
The fraudsters almost invariably instructed the call recipient that, in order to prevent these dire consequences, the recipient must pay money, by wire transfer or cash, to some purported government entity.
This elaborate conspiracy operated “money mule” cells in multiple states, including New Jersey, California, Indiana, Texas, Illinois and Minnesota. These money mules would receive parcels containing cash that had been sent by victims and then deposit the money in bank accounts controlled by conspirators.
According to court documents, Choksi and Majmudar worked as money mules for the Minnesota cell of this conspiracy for at least two months in 2019.
Between May and June, Choksi and Majmudar received victim cash shipments at their home in Eden Prarie, Minnesota.
Choksi also used counterfeit driver’s licenses to pick up victim cash shipments from locations in and around Eden Prairie.
Majmudar regularly tracked victim cash shipments.
Once in hand, she and Choksi made video recordings of Choksi removing and counting the money, and then sent the videos to their conspiracy supervisor as proof of how much victim cash had been received.
The two each then made multiple cash deposits into bank accounts controlled by conspiracy members.
In total, Choksi and Majmudar received or attempted to receive 11 shipments from 10 victims located in multiple states around the country. The total amount of victim cash in these packages was $132,200. Of the 10 victims who sent cash to the defendants, nine were between 66 and 86 years of age, the press release noted.