Indian pleads guilty to running call center scam

Washington: A 43-year-old Indian in the US has pleaded guilty to illegally running a multi-million dollar Ahmedabad-based call centre and defrauding individuals. Bharat Kumar Patel was arrested for his role in the fraud and money laundering scheme alongside 55 other individuals and five call centers in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas on October 19.

The sentencing of Patel is scheduled for July 7, 2017. As part of the guilty plea he has agreed to be deported to India after serving his sentence. He was earlier living in Illinois.

According to court documents, Patel and his co- conspirators perpetrated a complex scheme in which individuals from call centers located in Ahmedabad impersonated officials from the IRS or US Citizenship and Immigration Services in a ruse designed to defraud victims located throughout the United States.

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

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 centers would immediately turn to a network of "runners" based in the US to liquidate and launder the fraudulently-obtained funds, the Justice Department said.

According to his plea, beginning July 2013, Patel worked as a member of a crew of runners operating in the Chicago area and elsewhere throughout the country. He admitted to purchasing reloadable cards or retrieving wire transfers and using the misappropriated personal identifying information of US citizens.

Patel also admitted to opening personal bank accounts in order to receive scam proceeds and payments from defrauded victims as well as creating limited liability companies in his name to further the conspiracy.

According to his plea, Patel opened one bank account that received more than USD 1.5 million in deposits over a one-year period and another bank account that received more than USD 450,000 in deposits over a five-month period.

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