Illinois man pleaded guilty today to money laundering conspiracy,
joining six other defendants who recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy
charges for their roles in liquidating and laundering victim payments
generated through a massive telephone impersonation fraud and money
laundering scheme perpetrated by a network of India-based call centers
responsible for defrauding U.S. residents of hundreds of millions of
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s
Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez of the Southern
District of Texas, Acting Deputy Director Peter T. Edge of U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Inspector General J. Russell
George of the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
(TIGTA) and Inspector General John Roth of the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS-OIG) made the
Patel, 42, most recently residing in Willowbrook, Illinois; Sunny
Joshi, 47, of Sugar Land, Texas; Jagdishkumar Chaudhari, 39, of
Montgomery, Alabama; and Rajesh Bhatt, 53, of Sugar Land, each pleaded
guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy. Raman Patel, 82, of
Gilbert, Arizona; Praful Patel, 50, of Fort Myers, Florida; and Jerry
Norris, 47, of Oakland, California, each pleaded guilty to one count of
conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering offenses. The pleas
were entered before U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner of the
Southern District of Texas between Sept. 22 and Nov. 13, except for
Raman Patel’s plea, which was entered before U.S. District Court Judge
Michelle Burns in the District of Arizona on Nov. 6. Six of the men
have been in federal custody since their arrests in October 2016 and
will remain detained until their pending sentencing dates.
to admissions made in connection with their pleas, Miteshkumar Patel,
Raman Patel, Joshi, Jagdishkumar Chaudhari, Bhatt, Praful Patel, Norris
and their co-conspirators perpetrated a complex scheme in which
individuals from call centers located in Ahmedabad, India, impersonated
officials from the IRS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
(USCIS), and engaged in other telephone call scams, in a ruse designed
to defraud victims located throughout the United States. Using
information obtained from data brokers and other sources, call center
operators targeted U.S. 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 general
purpose reloadable (GPR) cards or wiring money. 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.
on admissions in Miteshkumar Patel’s plea, beginning in or around 2013,
Miteshkumar Patel managed a crew of a half dozen domestic runners
involved in the criminal scheme, liquidating as much as approximately
$25 million in victim funds for conspirators from India-based call
center and organizational co-defendant HGLOBAL. Patel communicated
about the fraudulent scheme with various domestic and India-based
co-defendants via email, text messaging and WhatsApp messaging.
Miteshkumar Patel and his runners purchased reloadable GPR cards that
were registered using the misappropriated personal identifying
information (PII) of unsuspecting victims that were later used to
receive victims’ funds, and used those reloadable cards containing
victims’ funds to purchase money orders and then deposit those money
orders into bank accounts, as directed, while keeping a portion of the
scam proceeds as profit. Miteshkumar Patel also trained the runners he
managed on how to conduct the liquidation scheme, provided them with
vehicles to conduct their activities in Illinois and throughout the
country, and directed a co-defendant to open bank accounts and limited
liability companies for use in the conspiracy. Miteshkumar Patel
further admitted to using a gas station he owned in Racine, Wisconsin to
liquidate victim funds, and possessing and using equipment at his
Illinois apartment to make fraudulent identification documents used by
co-defendant runners in his crew to receive wire transfers directly from
scam victims and make bank deposits in furtherance of the conspiracy.
to admissions in Raman Patel’s guilty plea, from in or around 2014,
Patel served as a domestic runner in and around south-central Arizona,
liquidating victim scam funds per the instructions of a co-defendant.
Patel also served as a driver for two co-defendants in furtherance of
their GPR liquidation and related activities and sent bank deposit
receipts related to the processing of victim payments and fraud proceeds
to an India-based co-defendant via email and document scan services
offered at various retail stores.
on admissions in Joshi and Bhatt’s guilty pleas, beginning in or around
2012, Joshi and Bhatt worked together as runners in the Houston, Texas
area along with a co-defendant. They admitted to extensively
communicating via email and text with, and operating at the direction
of, India-based conspirators from organizational co-defendant CALL
MANTRA call center to liquidate up to approximately $9.5 million in
victim funds, including by purchasing GPR cards and using those cards,
funded by co-conspirators with scam victim funds, to purchase money
orders and deposit them in third party bank accounts, while keeping a
percentage of the scam proceeds for themselves as profit. Joshi has
also agreed to plead guilty to one count of naturalization fraud
pursuant to a federal indictment obtained against him in the Eastern
District of Louisiana, based on fraudulently obtaining his U.S.
Chaudhari admitted in his plea that between April 2014 and June 2015,
he worked as a member of a crew of runners operating in the Chicago area
and elsewhere throughout the country, at the direction of Miteshkumar
Patel and others. In exchange for monthly cash payments, Jagdishkumar
Chaudhari admitted to driving to hundreds of retail stores to purchase
GPR cards to be loaded with victim funds by co-conspirators in India,
purchasing money orders with GPR cards that had been funded with victim
proceeds, depositing money orders purchased using victim scam proceeds
at various banks, and retrieving wire transfers sent by victims of the
scheme. Jagdishkumar Chaudhari is an Indian national with no legal
status in the United States, and has agreed to deportation after he
serves his sentence as a condition of his guilty plea.
plea, Praful Patel admitted that between in or around June 2013 and
December 2015, he was a domestic runner who liquidated funds in and
around Fort Myers, Florida for conspirators from India-based call center
and organizational co-defendant HGLOBAL. Praful Patel communicated
extensively via WhatsApp texts with his conspirators. For a percentage
commission on transactions he conducted, Praful Patel admitted to
purchasing reloadable GPR cards that were registered using the
misappropriated PII of unsuspecting victims that were later used to
receive victims’ funds, using those reloadable GPR cards containing
victims’ funds to purchase money orders and depositing those money
orders into bank accounts as directed, and using fake identity documents
to receive wire transfers from victims.
to Norris’ guilty plea, beginning in or around January 2013 continuing
through December 2014, he was a runner who worked with conspirators
associated with India-based call center and organizational co-defendant
HGLOBAL, and was responsible for the liquidation of victim scam funds in
and around California. Norris admitted he communicated extensively via
WhatsApp and email with India-based co-defendants including Sagar
“Shaggy” Thakar, purchased GPR cards used in the scheme, sent lead lists
to conspirators in India that were then used by callers located in the
call centers to target potential victims in the telefraud scheme,
received scam proceeds via wire transfers using fictitious names, and
laundered scam proceeds from GPR cards via ATM withdrawals.
date, Miteshkumar Patel, Raman Patel, Joshi, Jagdishkumar Chaudhari,
Bhatt, Praful Patel, Norris, 49 other individuals and five India-based
call centers have been charged for their roles in the fraud and money
laundering scheme in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in
the Southern District of Texas on Oct. 19, 2016. Including the pleas
announced today, a total of 24 defendants have pleaded guilty thus far
in relation to this investigation. Defendants Bharatkumar Patel,
Ashvinbhai Chaudhari, Harsh Patel, Nilam Parikh, Hardik Patel, Rajubhai
Patel, Viraj Patel, Dilipkumar A. Patel, Fahad Ali, Bhavesh Patel,
Asmitaben Patel, Montu Barot, Nilesh Pandya, Dipakkumar Patel, Nisarg
Patel, Rajesh Kumar, and Dilipkumar Ramanlal Patel previously pleaded
guilty on various dates between April and September 2017.
Miteshkumar Patel is scheduled to be sentenced on March 7, 2018.
The remaining defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Homeland Security Investigations, DHS-OIG and TIGTA led the
investigation of this case. Also providing significant support were:
the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs; Ft. Bend
County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office; police departments in Hoffman Estates
and Naperville, Illinois, and Leonia, New Jersey; San Diego County
District Attorney’s Office Family Protection and Elder Abuse Unit; U.S.
Secret Service; U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector
General; IOC-2; INTERPOL Washington; USCIS; U.S. State Department’s
Diplomatic Security Service; and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Middle
District of Alabama, Northern District of Alabama, District of Arizona,
Central District of California, Northern District of California,
District of Colorado, Northern District of Florida, Middle District of
Florida, Northern District of Illinois, Northern District of Indiana,
District of Nevada and District of New Jersey. The Federal
Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau also provided assistance
in TIGTA’s investigation.
Trial Attorney Michael Sheckels and Trial Attorney Mona Sahaf of the
Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section
(HRSP), Trial Attorney Amanda Wick of the Criminal Division’s Money
Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys S.
Mark McIntyre and Craig M. Feazel of the Southern District of Texas are
prosecuting this case. HRSP’s Ann Marie Ursini and Assistant U.S.
Attorney Greg Kennedy of the Eastern District of Louisiana prosecuted
the naturalization fraud case against Joshi.
A Department of Justice website
has been established to provide information about the case to already
identified and potential victims and the public. Anyone who believes
they may be a victim of fraud or identity theft in relation to this
investigation or other telefraud scam phone calls may contact the
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) via this website.
who wants additional information about telefraud scams generally, or
preventing identity theft or fraudulent use of their identity
information, may obtain helpful information on the IRS tax scams website, the FTC phone scam website and the FTC identity theft website.