US Justice Dept. charges 32 Indians in Ahmedabad based Call Centre Scam

Justice Department officials announced charges against 61 people and entities Thursday and said the call center scheme had scammed at least 15,000 victims out of more than $250 million.

Although most of the people charged on Thursday reside in India, Justice Department officials said they would seek to have the authorities there extradite defendants to the United States to stand trial on fraud, money laundering and other charges.

The charges against those involved include conspiracy to commit identity theft, false personation of an officer of the United States, wire fraud and money laundering.

Police activity Thursday morning on a quiet street in Dyer was related to a wide-ranging global federal investigation into a fraud scheme that targeted some society's most vulnerable, authorities said.

Once the unsuspecting victims paid the fraudulent dues, "the call centers relied on a network of USA -based associates to cash out and launder the extorted funds as quickly as possible", she said.

The fraud scheme also allegedly used "hawalas", informal money transfer networks popular in the Middle East, North Africa, India and Pakistan, to transfer the illicit funds to recipients in the United States. "It is not the USA government calling you".

That second batch of prepaid cards was used to buy money orders that were deposited in bank accounts in the United States. You owe the government money and must pay immediately or risk arrest.

The conspiracy that led to the recent indictments was "a sophisticated fraudulent scheme" originating in India but including some two dozen USA -based conspirators, the Department of Justice alleges. And payment processors based in India helped facilitate overseas payments.

Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, call-centre operators allegedly called potential victims while impersonating officials from the Internal Revenue Service or US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Indian authorities separately conducted early October raids on calling centers near Mumbai and elsewhere, said Timothy Camus, deputy inspector general for investigations at the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

"Of that number, approximately 10,000 people have acknowledged they have fallen victim to this scam in the amount of Dollars 50 million", he said.

According to the indictment, for instance, an 85-year-old resident of San Diego lost $12,300, and another California resident lost $136,000, by settling what they were told were tax violations. "They are menacing and they are ruthless in their pursuit of their victims", said Bruce Foucart of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell called Thursday's arrests a major breakthrough. "They are menacing and they are ruthless in their pursuit of their victims".

The Justice Department said it's not clear the victims will get their money back, and it's certainly possible that the arrested defendants could be replaced.

  • Zachary Reyes