Washington: A 31-year-old Indian national has been sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison on Monday for his involvement in a major call centre scam under which he and his co-conspirators extorted money from American residents by impersonating tax officers, the US Department of Justice said.
Nishitkumar Patel, who had pleaded guilty to the charges on January 9, has also been asked by a Florida court to pay USD 2,00,000, forfeit cash and a 2015 Land Rover that was seized in October 2018.
According to court documents, Patel connived with the US-based co-conspirators and the India-based call centres to extort money from American residents by impersonating Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officers between 2014 and 2016.
The IRS is the revenue service of the United States federal government.
During this period, they mislead the victims in believing that they owed money to the IRS and would be arrested and fined if they did not pay their alleged taxes back immediately, as per the documents.
The conspirators collected the fraud proceeds by withdrawing cash from prepaid cards purchased and funded by victims; hiring other conspirators (runners) to retrieve money wired by the victims to those runners; and/or hiring runners to open bank accounts into which victims deposited fraud proceeds, revealed the documents.
The defendants collected the proceeds by providing the runners with the victims’ names, locations, and amounts paid.
The runners were directed to retrieve the fraud proceeds in cash and turn the funds over to the defendants, often less a payment to the runner for opening the account or conducting the transaction, according to the documents.
Four others have already pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme.
On March 25, Alejandro Juarez was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. Hemalkumar Shah, Sharvil Patel and Brenda Dozier are currently awaiting sentencing.
“We here at IRS CI recognise the heartache and concern these crooks cause innocent people. This is why we are eager to team up with our law enforcement partners to track down these impersonators in whatever corner of the globe they may be hiding in,” said special agent in-charge Mary Hammond of IRS Criminal Investigations, Tampa Field Office.
J Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, said, “Over the last several years, American taxpayers have been subjected to unprecedented attempts to fraudulently obtain money by individuals impersonating Internal Revenue Service employees.”
“Victimising taxpayers by impersonating IRS employees is a serious crime,” he said.