The U.S. government has sentenced 21 people to jail terms for their involvement in a call center scam based in India that targeted U.S. victims.
The prison sentences for the convicted ranged from 4 to 20 years.
“The stiff sentences imposed this week represent the culmination of the first-ever, large scale, multijurisdiction prosecution targeting the India call center scam industry,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Friday.
U.S. officials say the call center scam defrauded thousands of U.S. residents of hundreds of millions of dollars. Prosecutors say the Indian call centers used various telephone fraud schemes to defraud mainly vulnerable Americans, including the elderly and legal immigrants.
Justice Department officials say some of the schemes included impersonating employees of the Internal Revenue Service or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Officials say the callers duped victims into believing that they owed money to the U.S. government and would be arrested or deported if they did not pay immediately.
Victims were instructed to wire money or purchase stored value cards. Once a victim provided payment, the call centers turned to a network of U.S.-based “runners” who would quickly move the money by using anonymous reloadable cards.
India and US defendants
Prosecutors say Miteshkumar Patel, 42, of Illinois, was the head of a Chicago-based crew of “runners” and also coordinated directly with the Indian side of the conspiracy. He was given the longest prison term of the group — 20 years.
“This case represents one of the most significant victories to date in our continuing efforts to combat elder fraud and the victimization of the most vulnerable members of the U.S. public,” Sessions said.
The indictment for the case also charged 32 India-based conspirators and five India-based call centers with general conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy. Those defendants have not yet been arraigned.