The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has disclosed that an Indian citizen was sentenced to 20 years in prison, plus three years of supervised release, after being found guilty of engaging in a massive fraudulent operation using India-based call centers that defrauded thousands of U.S. citizens between 2013 and 2016.
Hitesh Madhubhai Patel (also known as Hitesh Hinglaj), 44, was sentenced by a U.S. district judge on charges like conspiracy to commit electronic fraud and conspiracy to commit general identification fraud, electronic device access fraud, money laundering, and impersonation of a federal authority, official, or employee. In addition to serving his prison sentence, Patel will have to restore nearly $9 million USD to victims of fraud.
DOJ documents mention that Patel deceived thousands of citizens in vulnerable conditions (mainly elderly people) by leading a conspiracy in which he and his accomplices disguised federal government officials, calling victims with threats to initiate legal proceedings against them if they did not make bank transfers to defendant-controlled addresses.
Upon pleading guilty, Patel admits that he and his accomplices developed this complex scheme that was operated in call centers in the city of Ahmedabad, India. To be specific, criminals posed as officials from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), calling thousands of people to threaten them with arrests, fines, imprisonment, and even deportation if they did not pay money allegedly owed to these institutions.
Another of the individuals pointed out for their participation in this scheme confirmed that Patel was the main man behind the fraud, claiming that he even owns the call centers used for this campaign. Patel was reportedly arrested in India in 2016, although he managed to evade justice by using bribes and fleeing to Singapore.
Finally, Patel was arrested and extradited to the United States in April 2019. The arrest was made possible by collaboration between the authorities of the three countries and in accordance with an arrest warrant issued in 2018.
Mark Dawson, special agent of National Security Investigations (NHI) in charge of the investigation, mentions: “This individual took advantage of the fears and ignorance of his victims for years, employing an elaborate plan to manipulate American taxpayers.”
On the other hand, Special Agent of the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS-OIG) David Green believes that this will set an important precedent against these groups: “Operators of these fraudulent schemes should be aware that their actions have consequences, both for the victims and for themselves; U.S. prosecutors will work hard to identify, find, and arrest members of these criminal cells.” The authorities will continue to investigate any possible link between Patel and other similar schemes.
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