An Indian national was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a U.S. District judge in the Southern District of Texas, for his role in operating and funding India-based call centers that defrauded U.S. victims out of millions of dollars between 2013 and 2016.
On Nov. 30, 2020, Judge David Hittner sentenced Hitesh Madhubhai Patel aka Hitesh Hinglaj, 44, of Ahmedabad, for wire fraud conspiracy and general conspiracy to commit identification fraud, access device fraud, money laundering and impersonation of a federal officer or employee.
Patel was also ordered to pay restitution of $8,970,396 to identified victims of his crimes.
According to admissions in his plea agreement cited in the press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, Patel and his co-conspirators perpetrated a complex scheme in which employees from call centers in Ahmedabad, impersonated officials from the IRS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and engaged in other telephone call scams designed to defraud victims throughout the United States.
The callers threatened the U.S. victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged monies owed to the government.
Those who fell victim were instructed how to provide payment, including by purchasing general purpose reloadable (GPR) cards or wiring money. Upon payment, the call centers would immediately turn to a network of “runners” based in the United States to liquidate and launder the fraudulently obtained funds.
In his plea, Patel admitted to operating and funding several India-based call centers from which the fraud schemes were perpetrated, including the call center HGLOBAL.
A co-defendant described Patel as “the top person in India and the boss for whom most of the other defendants worked,” and the owner of multiple call centers.
Another co-defendant said Patel was arrested in India in 2016, but then paid a bribe and was released, the press release said.
Additionally, Patel admitted that a reasonably foreseeable loss of more than $25 million but less than $65 million was attributable to him, based on the government’s evidence against him.
Patel was prosecuted in the United States after being extradited from Singapore in April 2019 to face charges in this large-scale telefraud and money laundering scheme. Singapore authorities apprehended Patel at the request of the United States.
The indictment in this case, which was unsealed in October 2016, charged Patel and 60 other individuals and entities with general conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. A total of 24 domestic defendants associated with this transnational criminal scheme were previously convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment of up to 20 years in the Southern District of Texas, District of Arizona and Northern District of Georgia.
A Department of Justice website has been established to provide information about the case to already identified and potential victims and the public. Anyone who believes they may be a victim of fraud or identity theft in relation to this investigation or other telefraud scam phone calls could contact the FTC via this website.