09/16/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/16/2021 15:44
RICHMOND, Va. - An Indian national was sentenced today to 22 years in prison for conspiracy and identity theft in connection with his operation of an overseas robocall scam that defrauded thousands of victims out of more than $10 million.
'This defendant has been sentenced to 22 years in prison for being the mastermind and leader of an extensive multimillion-dollar robocall scheme that, from overseas, exploited over 4,000 American victims,' said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. 'The impact of the harm inflicted on the victims of these robocall schemes can be devastating. The victims, many of whom are elderly, continue to endure significant financial hardship from the defendant's vast fraud enterprise. The defendant operated and supervised the call center, was the 'closer' when speaking to victims, and managed the money couriers who illegally sent millions of stolen and hard-earned funds belonging to the victims back to his call center. When you consider the sheer number of victims this defendant extorted and the magnitude of their losses, the scale of harm and pain he caused is enormous. As this case demonstrates, we will continue to work closely with our partners to investigate, apprehend, and prosecute transnational criminal enterprises that steal from vulnerable American victims, and will bring the perpetrators of these scams to justice no matter where they are located.'
According to court documents, Shehzadkhan Pathan, 40, operated a call center in Ahmedabad, India, from which automated robocalls were made to victims in the United States. After establishing contact with victims through these automated calls, Pathan and other 'closers' at his call center would coerce, cajole, and trick victims into sending bulk cash through physical shipments and electronic money transfers. Pathan and his conspirators used a variety of schemes to convince victims to send money, including impersonating law enforcement officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and representatives of other government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, to threaten victims with severe legal and financial consequences. Conspirators also convinced victims to send money as initial installments for falsely promised loans.
'Fraud targeting the elderly has a uniquely harmful effect on a segment of the population that is often amongst society's most vulnerable. This conspiracy, which defrauded over 4,000 victims, many of whom were elderly, out of at least $10 million, is again an unfortunate reminder of the type of devastation these fraud schemes can wreak,' said Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal/Cyber Division. 'Pathan, a leader of this scheme, which relied on impersonating law enforcement to threaten victims, is the 4th individual sentenced in this investigation and represents a step forward in our efforts to hold those who engage in these scams accountable to the fullest extent of the law. The FBI's work in this area is far from over as we remain steadfast in our commitment to relentlessly pursue these types of investigations to ensure the protection of the hard-earned livelihood of our nation's elderly.'
In addition to operating the call center, Pathan recruited and supervised a multitude of money couriers, whom he directed to receive money sent by victims. Pathan's network of money couriers was located in multiple states, including but not limited to Virginia, New Jersey, Minnesota, Texas, California, South Carolina, and Illinois. Pathan assigned various aliases to these individuals and supplied them with hundreds of counterfeit identification documents to facilitate their receipt of victim cash shipments and money transfers. Pathan then directed the couriers to send the money to himself and other conspirators through various means, including cash deposits into numerous bank accounts and via informal money transmitters known as Hawalas.
Pathan is the fourth of six defendants in this case to be sentenced for their role in the conspiracy. Co-defendants Pradipsinh Parmar, 41, and Sumer Patel, 38, both of Ahmedabad, India, acted as money couriers during the conspiracy, and are scheduled to be sentenced on September 20.
Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the Department of Justice. Elder abuse is an intentional or negligent act by any person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult. It is a term used to describe five subtypes of elder abuse: physical abuse, financial fraud, scams and exploitation, caregiver neglect and abandonment, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse. Elder abuse is a serious crime against some of our nation's most vulnerable citizens, affecting at least 10 percent of older Americans every year. Together with our federal, state, local, and tribal partners, the Department of Justice is steadfastly committed to combatting all forms of elder abuse and financial exploitation through enforcement actions, training and resources, research, victim services, and public awareness. This holistic and robust response demonstrates the Department's unwavering dedication to fighting for justice for older Americans.
Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson.
The Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Police Department provided significant assistance with this investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian R. Hood and Kaitlin G. Cooke are prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:19-cr-160.