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Finally: U.S. shuts down massive IRS phone scam

IRSTwenty-one members of massive India-based fraud and money laundering conspiracy that defrauded thousands of U.S. residents of hundreds of millions of dollars were sentenced in a Houston court last week to terms of up to 20 years. Three other conspirators were sentenced earlier this year for laundering proceeds for the conspiracy, which was operated out of India-based call centers that targeted U.S. residents in telephone fraud schemes.

“The stiff sentences imposed this week represent the culmination of the first-ever large-scale, multi-jurisdiction prosecution targeting the India call center scam industry,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “This case represents one of the most significant victories to date in our continuing efforts to combat elder fraud and the victimization of the most vulnerable members of the U.S. public.”

Miteshkumar Patel, 42, of Illinois, was sentenced to serve 240 months in prison on the charge of money laundering conspiracy. Patel served as the manager of a Chicago-based crew of “runners” that laundered fraud proceeds generated by callers at India-based call centers. Those callers used scripts and lead lists to target victims throughout the United States with telefraud schemes where the callers impersonated U.S. government employees from the IRS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The callers duped victims into believing that they owed money to the U.S. government and would be arrested or deported if they didn’t pay immediately.  After the victims transferred money to the callers, a network of U.S.-based runners moved launder fraud proceeds through the use of anonymous stored value cards. In addition to recruiting, training, and organizing 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.    

Hardik Patel, 31, of Illinois, was sentenced to serve 188 months in prison for wire fraud conspiracy. Patel was a co-owner and manager of an India-based call center involved in the conspiracy. In addition to managing the day-to-day operations of a call center, Patel also processed payments and did bookkeeping for the various call centers involved in the scheme. Patel laundered between $3.5 and $9.5 million dollars for the scheme. 

Sunny Joshi, 47, of Texas, was sentenced to serve 151 months in prison for money laundering, and 120 months in prison on the charge of naturalization fraud to run concurrently. Joshi was a member of a Houston-based crew of runners that he co-managed with his brother, co-defendant Mike Joshi. Sunny Joshi communicated with India-based co-defendants about the operations of the scheme and laundered between $3.5 and $9.5 million. 

Eighteen other defendants were also sentenced in Houston.

Twenty-two of the defendants were held liable for restitution of nearly $9 million which will be paid to victims of their crimes. In addition, the court approved the seizure of assets of 21 defendants, and money judgments totaling nearly $73 million.

The indictment in this case also charged 32 India-based conspirators and five India-based call centers with conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy. These defendants haven’t been arraigned yet in this case. 

A Department of Justice website offers information about the case to victims and the public. Anyone who thinks they may be a victim of fraud or identity theft related to this investigation or other telefraud scam phone calls can contact the FTC.

Consumers who want additional information about telefraud scams or preventing identity theft or fraudulent use of their identity information can obtain information on the IRS tax scams website, FTC phone scam website, and FTC identity theft website.

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