Man pleads guilty to defrauding Americans in India call center scheme

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An Indian national living in the U.S. has pleaded guilty for being the mastermind of a multi-million dollar money laundering and telephone fraud scheme carried out at India-based call centers.

Ashvinbhai Chaudhari, 28, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering for his role in liquidating and laundering victim payments generated through various telephone fraud and money laundering schemes via India-based call centers.

Chaudhari is an Indian national who has been residing in Austin, Texas.

According to the court documents, Chaudhari and his co-conspirators perpetrated a complex scheme that defrauded Americans by impersonating IRS or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials from call centers located in Ahmedabad, India, and mislead them into believing they owed money to the IRS, threatening them with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay their alleged back taxes immediately.

Victims who agreed to pay the scammers were instructed how to provide payment, including by purchasing stored value cards or wiring money, and upon payment, the call centers would immediately turn to a network of “runners” based in the U.S. to liquidate and launder the fraudulently-obtained funds.

Chaudhari admitted that since April 2014, he worked as a runner operating in Illinois, Georgia, Nevada, Texas and other locations spread across the U.S.

According to his plea, he often corresponded with U.S. and India-based co-conspirators via a text app called WhatsApp, and was instructed to drive around the U.S. with “other runners to purchase reloadable cards registered with misappropriated personal identifying information of U.S. citizens.”

Upon the victim’s payment being loaded onto the fraudulent cards, Chaudhari admitted he liquidated the proceeds and transferred the funds into money orders to be deposited into different bank accounts and kept a percentage for himself.

Additionally, his plea stated that he shipped money orders purchased with victim funds to other co-conspirators residing in the U.S., as well as receiving fraudulent identification documents from an India-based co-conspirator, then turning around and using those documents to collect scam payments from victims via wire transfers.

He is the second defendant to plead guilty in this case. Bharat Kumar Patel, 43, previously pleaded guilty for his role in the fraud and money laundering scheme.

Chaudhari is scheduled to appear in court for sentencing on July 21, 2017.

A reported 55 other individuals and five India-based call centers in connection with the ruse have been charged with fraud and money-laundering in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury last year in October.

H/T: U.S. Department of Justice

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