A massive ‘call center’ scam which fooled millions of United States citizens for millions of dollars was brought a logical conclusion a day before yesterday when four Indians and one Pakistani pleaded guilty. The scam involved the Indians and Pakistani gent colluding to scam US citizens by impersonating as IRS and other officials and extorting U.S. citizens to pay the ransom. Though this ‘entire call center’ operation operated through India-based call centers, the main accused in the scam operated out of the USA, US Department of Justice has said.
Three Indians – Rajubhai Patel (32), Viraj Patel (33), Dilip Kumar Ambal Patel (53), and a Pakistani national Fahad Ali (25) – pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy before US District Court Judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas.
The mastermind behind this call center scam, Hardik Patel (31), had already pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy before the same court on June 2. Hardik hit upon the idea of impersonating US authorities and calling US citizens in an accented voice to extort them into paying what they thought were penalties for defrauding. The call center scam was started in August 2012 and continued till FBI and the Mumbai police launched a joint operation to hunt the scamsters down.
Hardik owned and managed the day-to-day operations of an India-based scam call center before leaving for the US. While in India, in his capacity as a manager and mastermind, Hardik directed other members of the cybercrime gang to defraud millions of dollars. They used email, text, and other means with various India-based co-defendants to operate the scheme and exchange scripts used in the scheme, 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 (PII) of US persons misappropriated by the scammers to register reloadable cards used in the scheme.
Hardik controlled the entire operation and paid cuts to the other gang members based on the profits and expenses of which he kept a record. Other accused in the case, Rajubhai operated as a liaison between Hardik and other gang members. He also assisted Hardik in managing the activities of other crew members. He was based in Illinois and used various locations in the state to liquidate the funds received from the victims.
Another scammer, Viraj Patel worked in India and oversaw the call center operations in Mumbai and Surat. He reported directly to Hardik. Dilip Kumar Patel operated as a runner in and around Southern California and used the state banks to liquidate the scam money. To date, 56 individuals and five India-based call centers have been charged for their roles in the fraud and money-laundering scheme in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas on October 19, 2016.
The lone Pakistani in the case, Fahad Ali worked as a member of the gang operating in the Chicago, Illinois area, the Southern District of Texas and elsewhere throughout the country.
DoJ has said that all four will be sentenced when the court reconvenes.