The US Department of Justice has announced the sentencing of an Indian national for masterminding several India-based call centers that defrauded US victims out of millions of dollars between 2013 and 2016.
Hitesh Madhubhai Patel, aka Hitesh Hinglaj, 44, of Ahmedabad, India, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and three years of supervised release for the charges of “wire fraud conspiracy and general conspiracy to commit identification fraud, access device fraud, money laundering, and impersonation of a federal officer or employee.” Patel was also ordered to pay restitution of $8,970,396 to identified victims of his crimes.
According to a DOJ press release, Patel and his co-conspirators (including some on US soil) perpetrated a complex scheme in which employees from call centers in India impersonated officials from the IRS and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Phone operators under his command engaged in telephone call scams designed to scare victims into wiring money, “threatening them with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged monies owed to the government.”
“Those who fell victim were instructed how to provide payment, including by purchasing general purpose reloadable (GPR) cards or wiring money,” according to admissions in Patel’s plea agreement. “Upon payment, the call centers would immediately turn to a network of ‘runners’ based in the United States to liquidate and launder the fraudulently obtained funds.”
Patel admitted to operating and funding several call centers from which the fraud was perpetrated, including the HGLOBAL call center.
“Patel corresponded by email and WhatsApp messaging frequently with his co-defendants to exchange credit card numbers, telephone scam scripts, and call center operations instructions,” the DOJ explains.“The scripts included IRS impersonation, USCIS impersonation, Canada Revenue Agency impersonation, Australian Tax Office impersonation, payday loan fraud, U.S. Government grant fraud, and debt collection fraud,” according to the news release.
Patel admitted that he is solely responsible for the “reasonably foreseeable loss of more than $25 million but less than $65 million,” based on the government’s evidence against him.