US call centre scam: 4 Indians, 1 Pakistani plead guilty

Washington, June 6  Four Indians and a Pakistani national have pleaded guilty to charges for their role in a massive telephone impersonation fraud and money laundering scheme in the US perpetrated by India-based call centres, the US Department of Justice said.

Indian nationals Rajubhai Patel (32), Viraj Patel (33), Dilipkumar Ambal Patel (53) and Pakistani Fahad Ali (25) each pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy before US District Court Judge David Hittner of the southern district of Texas.

Indian national Hardik Patel, 31, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy before the same court on June 2.

Sentencing dates were pending for all five defendants, the Department of Justice said on Monday.

Based on the statements in his June 2 guilty plea, beginning in August 2012, Hardik owned and managed the day-to-day operations of an India-based scam call centre before leaving for the US.

While in India, Hardik communicated extensively via email, text, and other means with various India-based co-defendants to operate the scheme and exchange scripts used in the scheme.

He also used to coordinate the processing of payments from scammed victims, obtain and exchange lead lists used by callers to target US victims and exchange spreadsheets containing the personal identifying information of US persons misappropriated by the scammers to register reloadable cards used in the scheme.

Hardik also managed worker payroll and kept detailed records of profits and expenses for various associated scam call centres. He continued to communicate with India-based co-defendants about the scheme and assist with the conspiracy after he moved to the US.

According to his June 6 guilty plea, Rajubhai Patel operated as a runner and assisted a co-defendant in managing the activities of a crew of other runners, based primarily out of Illinois, who liquidated victim funds in various locales in the US for conspirators from India-based call centres.

Viraj Patel first became involved in the conspiracy between April and September 2013, prior to entering the US, when he worked at and assisted with overseeing the operations of a call centre in India engaging in scam activity at the behest of a co-defendant.

Dilipkumar A. Patel operated as a runner in and around Southern California, along with other co-defendants based in the region.

Fahad Ali worked as a member of a crew of runners operating in the Chicago, Illinois area, the Southern District of Texas and elsewhere throughout the country.

Ali admitted that he first served as a driver for an Illinois-based co-defendant engaging in activities in furtherance of the conspiracy.

Till date, 56 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 in Texas on October 19, 2016.

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