21 members of a huge India-based fraud and money laundering scam were sentenced in Houston to terms of imprisonment up to 20 years. 3 others were sentenced earlier this year.
The call centers were based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. Callers would call potential victims while impersonating officials from the IRS or the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, threatening potential victims with arrest or deportation if they did not pay taxes or penalties.
If the victim agreed to pay, the call centers would turn to a US-based network of ‘runners’ who would purchase blank prepaid debit cards, forward them to the call center for registering and then purchase money orders using balances loaded by the call centers from the fraud proceeds.
According to the original indictment there are over 15,000 known victims with $300 million of losses attributable to scam calls. In addition the prepaid debit cards were registered using identities stolen from approximately 50,000 individuals. 22 of the defendants sentenced were held jointly and severally liable for restitution of nearly $9 million payable to identified victims. Money judgments totaling nearly $73 million were also entered by the court.
The scheme began around January 2012 and continued through October 2016, the date of the original indictment.
Miteshkumar Patel of Illinois was sentenced to 20 years. He served as the manager of a Chicago-based crew of runners. Hardik Patel of Illinois was sentenced to nearly 16 years. He was a co-owner and manager of one of the call centers.
Two brothers in Sugar Land, Sunny and Mike Joshi were sentenced to 12 years each. They managed a Houston-based crew of runners. They will be deported to India after completion of their sentence.
The other defendants sentenced lived across the country from Florida to California.