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Indian, Indian-American plead guilty in call centre scam

Washington, July 20 (IANS) An Indian national and an Indian-American man pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy behind their roles in a massive telephone impersonation and money laundering fraud in the US perpetrated by India-based call centres.

Montu Barot, 30, an Indian national residing in Illinois and Indian-American Nilesh Pandya, 54, of Texas, pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering offenses, the US Department of Justice said on Wednesday.

Along with the two men, 54 other individuals and five India-based call centres were charged in the fraud.

Including this week’s pleas, a total of 13 defendants have pleaded guilty so far in this case. Co-defendants Bharatkumar Patel, Ashvinbhai Chaudhari, Harsh Patel, Nilam Parikh, Hardik Patel, Rajubhai Patel, Viraj Patel, Dilipkumar A. Patel, Fahad Ali, Bhavesh Patel and Asmitaben Patel previously pleaded guilty between April and July 2017.

According to admissions made in the case, Barot, Pandya and their co-conspirators perpetrated a scheme in which individuals from call centres located in Ahmedabad impersonated officials from the Internal Revenue Service and US Citizenship and Immigration Services and engaged in telephone call scams, in a ruse designed to defraud victims located throughout the US.

Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, call centre operators targeted US victims who were threatened with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged monies owed to the government.

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

Barot communicated via phone, text and email in furtherance of the criminal scheme with both domestic and India-based associates.

He and his conspirators used reloadable cards containing funds derived from victims by scam callers to purchase money orders and deposit them into various bank accounts as directed, in return for cash payments or commissions.

Barot also admitted to sending financial ledgers to his conspirators, detailing the movement of scam victim funds.

According to the report, Pandya served as a runner liquidating victim scam funds within the southern district of Texas.

At the direction of two of his co-defendants, Pandya used stored value cards that had been loaded with victim funds to buy money orders and then deposit them into various bank accounts.

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