Tuesday, August 1, 2017

‘Runner’ in IRS Phone Scam Arrested for Bilking $360K from Elderly U.S. Residents

An Indian American man involved in a complicated IRS phone scam scheme that bilked more than $360,000 from elderly U.S. residents made his first appearance in U.S. District Court in Worcester, Massachusetts, July 7 and was released without bail, on his own recognizance.

Ashokkumar ‘Andy’ Patel, believed to be a “runner” in a scheme possibly involving call centers in India, was arrested in Schaumburg, Illinois, after a criminal complaint compiled by FBI Special Agent Andrew Nambu was unsealed June 28. He appeared in court in Worcester, where he formerly resided while allegedly participating in the fraud.

Patel is charged with three felony counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and money laundering.

Reached at his office, Nambu told India-West he could not comment on a pending investigation.

According to the criminal complaint, Patel was involved in scamming at least three elderly residents of Massachusetts in a 10-month period, beginning in December 2013. In one instance, a caller posing as an attorney from the Central Investigation Bureau, and the Central Investigation Division, left several calls on the landline of a retired and disabled internal medicine physician in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

When the victim answered one of the calls, the caller identified himself as an attorney with the U.S. government, and stated there was a warrant for her arrest because she owed taxes.

The victim – identified only as V.A. – believed that the caller was legitimately from the U.S. government, because he correctly stated her maiden name, social security number, date of birth, and other identifying information, according to the complaint.

The caller spoke to V.A. in Hindi, which she understood. She was told to purchase several “MoneyPak” cards, and initially sent $20,000.

Between Dec. 20, 2013 and Feb. 7, 2014, the victim transferred approximately $85,000 to the bogus operation. The elderly woman stated she was in pain from her medical condition and had difficulty driving her car, but the calls nevertheless persisted.

In a second case, a victim residing in Lexington, Massachusetts, received a voicemail from (800) 829-1040, asking him to call back the Internal Revenue Service at (202) 754-8639.

The following day, the victim – identified as K.N. – received a call from a Kevin, who identified himself as an IRS agent. K.N. was told there was a warrant for his arrest because of back taxes, and that he immediately had to pay $10,500.

According to the criminal complaint, K.N. told investigators that he heard voices in the background during the call speaking Hindi or Gujarati.

Patel allegedly transferred K.N.’s preloaded MoneyPak cards into Green Dot debit cards, then used the cards to obtain MoneyGram money orders. The funds were then deposited into Bank of America accounts, which constitutes wire fraud, according to the complaint.

In a third instance, a 65-year-old resident of Worcester, Massachusetts, was bilked of more than $44,000 in July 2014, in the same scheme.

Patel is believed to be the “runner” in all three scams, transferring the victims’ pre-loaded debit cards into MoneyGram and Western Union money orders, which he then deposited into bank accounts.

 Between the period of November 2013 and September 2015, Patel deposited more than $145,000 into his Bank of America account from unknown sources.

Thomas Dahdouh, Western region director of the Federal Trade Commission, told India-West that in IRS scams, “we have a sense that they are getting leads from payday loan Web sites.”

“They are getting folks who are in their last dollar situations,” he said, noting that this was only one of several ways that fraudsters identify their targets.

He explained that “money mules” – like Patel – are people who transfer funds collected in the U.S. to offshore agencies, whom the FTC has been attempting to go after.

A significant number of “IRS scam boiler rooms” are based in India, said Dahdouh. He noted that the Indian government had raided several boiler rooms last fall, and the number of complaints about scam calls significantly dropped.

But the drop reversed this spring, he said, noting that fraudsters have re-organized themselves after the raids.

Dahdouh noted that – in the past – the IRS would never call a person who owed taxes and would communicate only by written letters. That has changed however: IRS agents have been hired in recent months to call people to collect back taxes, leaving consumers confused about legitimate callers, he told India-West.

Full Article & Source:
‘Runner’ in IRS Phone Scam Arrested for Bilking $360K from Elderly U.S. Residents

1 comment:

Terry said...

I bet almost everybody has been hit by the IRS scam.