There may now be fewer phony Internal Revenue Service agents threatening Americans by telephone.
The Justice Department this week announced a guilty plea from the last of 24 domestically based scammers who for years were part of an India-based scheme and conspiracy to separate victims from their money by impersonating agents of the IRS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Miteshkumar Patel, 42, of Willowbrook, Illinois, this month admitted his role in what the department called a “money laundering conspiracy.” He joined six other defendants who recently pleaded guilty 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 dollars.”
Such fake calls have prompted warnings to taxpayers from the Internal Revenue Commissioner and from the Treasury Inspector for Tax Administration, who worked the case along with the Homeland Security Department inspector general, Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco of Justice’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez of the Southern District of Texas and Acting Deputy Director Peter Edge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The IRS does not cold-call delinquent taxpayers but communicates in writing.
The conspiracy involved 61 defendants in all, counting those based in India, and produced a series of guilty pleas in Texas this fall for six major players arrested in October 2016.
“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,” Justice said of the $25 million scheme. “Victims who agreed to pay the scammers were instructed how to provide payment, including by purchasing general purpose reloadable 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.”
The U.S.-based perpetrators communicated with their Indian counterparts via encrypted apps such as WhatsApp. “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,” Justice said.
Also providing support for the prosecutions were the Small Business Administration IG, the Secret Service, the Federal Communications Commission, the State Department, INTERPOL Washington, and various U.S. attorneys and local law enforcement agencies.
Patel is scheduled to be sentenced on March 7, 2018.
A Justice website has been established to provide information about the case.