Finally, a little justice for the scammers who prey on the unsuspecting. Twenty-four more phone scammers have received prison sentences of up to 20 years for fraud and money laundering. The extent of their efforts was truly staggering.
One defendant, Miteshkumar Patel of Illinois, received 240 months in prison followed by three years of probation. Patel, wrote the Department of Justice, “served as the manager of a Chicago-based crew of ‘runners’ that liquidated and laundered fraud proceeds generated by callers at India-based call centers.”
Those callers used call scripts and lead lists to target victims throughout the United States with telefraud schemes in which the callers impersonated U.S. government employees from the IRS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The callers duped victims into believing that they owed money to the U.S. government and would be arrested or deported if they did not pay immediately. After the victims transferred money to the callers, a network of U.S.-based runners moved expeditiously to liquidate and launder fraud proceeds through the use of anonymous stored value cards. In addition to recruiting, training, and tasking runners in his crew, Patel also coordinated directly with the Indian side of the conspiracy about the operation of the scheme. Patel was held accountable for laundering between $9.5 and $25 million for the scheme.
The scam — familiar to anyone with a phone number — involves a robocall that appears to be from the IRS. When you call back, you get a call center staffed with threatening non-English speakers who yell at you if you try to weasel out of paying them with iTunes gift cards.
“This type of fraud is sickening,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick in a release. “However, after years of investigation and incredible hard work by multiple agents and attorneys, these con artists are finally headed to prison. Their cruel tactics preyed on some very vulnerable people, thereby stealing millions from them. These sentences should send a strong message that we will follow the trail no matter how difficult and seek justice for those victimized by these types of transnational schemes. We will simply not stand by and allow criminals to use the names of legitimate government agencies to enrich themselves by victimizing others.”
The fact that up to $25 million was collected in this scam is amazing. The resourcefulness and nastiness of this particular breed of scam is truly impressive, and Patel and 23 others will be going away for a while for their many crimes.