Call centre scam: Indian national pleads guilty

Call centre scam: Indian national pleads guilty

 A 43-year-old Indian national, who was extradited from Singapore, has pleaded guilty for his involvement in a multi-million dollar India-based call centre scam that targeted Americans, according to the Department of Justice.

Hitesh Madhubhai Patel played a "prominent" role in operating and funding the call centres whose callers and US-based conspirators defrauded American victims between 2013 and 2016, it said on Thursday.

Patel, also known as Hitesh Hinglaj, of Ahmedabad, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and general conspiracy to commit identification fraud, access device fraud, money laundering, and impersonation of a federal officer or employee, the department said.

"Hitesh Patel played a prominent role in this massive, India-based fraud scheme that bilked vulnerable Americans out of millions of dollars," Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said.

"This important resolution would not have occurred without the assistance of our Singaporean colleagues, to whom we extend our deep appreciation," he said.

Patel was prosecuted in the US after being extradited from Singapore in April 2019 to face charges in the telefraud and money laundering case.

Singapore authorities apprehended Patel at the request of the US, following a provisional arrest warrant in September 2018, after he flew there from India.

The Singaporean Minister for Law issued a warrant on March 25, 2019 for Patel to be delivered into custody of the US.

In his guilty plea, Patel and his co-conspirators perpetrated a complex fraudulent scheme involving a network of call centres based in Ahmedabad.

Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, the employees of the call centres impersonated officials from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and engaged in scams designed to defraud victims throughout the US.

The Justice Department said the American victims were threatened with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay monies, like taxes or penalties, owed to the government.

Those who fell victim to the scammers were instructed how to make the payment, including by purchasing general purpose reloadable (GPR) cards or wire transfers. Upon payment, the call centres would immediately turn to a network of "runners" based in the US to liquidate and launder the fraudulently obtained funds, the department added, it said.

In his plea, Patel admitted to operating and funding several India-based call centres from which the fraud schemes were perpetrated, including the HGlobal call centre conglomerate.

Patel corresponded by email and WhatsApp messaging frequently with his co-defendants to exchange.

He also received monthly income and expense reports on his personal email from the call centres, and used his Indian cell phone number to access GPR cards through automated telephone systems on many occasions.

A co-defendant described Patel as "the top person in India and the boss for whom most of the other defendants worked" and the owner of multiple call centres.

Patel was arrested in India in 2016, but was later released, another co-defendant said.

Patel admitted that a reasonably foreseeable loss of more than USD25 million but less than USD65 million was attributable to him, based on the government's evidence against him.

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