Foreign national pleads guilty in multi-million-dollar U.S. call center scam

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An Indian national pleaded guilty Thursday to participating in a multi-million-dollar call center scam based in India that targeted victims in the United States.

Bharatkumar Patel, a.k.a. Bharat Patel, 43, an Indian national who resided in Midlothian, Illinois, entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Patel agreed to be deported after he serves his sentence which will be handed down on July 7.

Patel admitted that he and his co-conspirators executed a complex scheme in which employees from call centers in Ahmedabad, India, impersonated officials from the IRS or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in a ploy to defraud victims in the United States.

Call center operators used information obtained from data brokers and other sources to identify potential victims whom they threatened with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay purported monies owed to the government.

The scammers instructed gullible victims how to provide payment, often via stored-value cards or wiring of money. Following receipt of payments, the call centers employed a network of U.S.-based “runners” to liquidate and launder the funds.

Patel had worked as a runner in the Chicago area and throughout the nation since July 2013. He admitted to purchasing reloadable cards, retrieving wire transfers, and utilizing the personal information of payees.

In addition, Patel set up limited liability companies in his name in association with the scam and opened personal bank accounts to receive both funds from the scheme and payments from victims. Patel’s plea revealed that one such bank account received more than $1.5 million in deposits over a one-year period and another took in more than $450,000 in deposits over a five-month period.

Fifty-five additional defendants were charged in the fraud and money-laundering scheme, along with five call centers.


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