External Affairs

Indian National Pleads Guilty in US Call Centre Scam

28-year-old Harsh Patel, arrested in the multi-million dollar call centre scam, has pleaded guilty. Credit: Reuters/Sherwin Crasto/Files

28-year-old Harsh Patel, arrested in the multi-million dollar call centre scam, has pleaded guilty. Credit: Reuters/Sherwin Crasto/Files

Washington: A 28-year-old Indian national in the US has pleaded guilty for his role in a multi-million dollar scam in which individuals from call centres located in India impersonated US tax and immigration officials to defraud victims across the US.

Harsh Patel, who most recently lived in New Jersey, is the third Indian national to have pleaded guilty to this scam that targeted hundreds of Americans.

Till date, Patel, over 50 other individuals and five India-based call centres have been charged for their roles in the fraud and money laundering scheme in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury last year in October.

He pleaded guilty before US district court judge David Hittner of the southern district of Texas.

Sentencing is scheduled for August 7, 2017.

According to admissions made in connection with the plea, Patel and his co-conspirators perpetrated a complex scheme in which individuals from call centres located in Ahmedabad impersonated officials from the Internal Revenue Service or US Citizenship and Immigration Services in a ruse designed to defraud victims located throughout the US, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, the call centre operators targeted US victims who were threatened with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged monies owed to the government.

Victims who agreed to pay the scammers were instructed how to provide payment, including by purchasing stored value cards or wiring money, and upon payment, the call centres would immediately turn to a network of “runners” based in the US to liquidate and launder the fraudulently obtained funds.

Since January 2015, Patel worked as a “runner” operating primarily in New Jersey, California and Illinois.

Patel is the third Indian national to have pleaded guilty in the call centre scam.

Bharat Kumar Patel, 43, previously pleaded guilty for his role in the fraud and money laundering scheme.

Ashvinbhai Chaudhari, 28, also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering for his role in liquidating and laundering victim payments generated through various telephone fraud and money laundering schemes via India-based call centres.

(PTI)