call centre scam
Policemen come out of one of the closed call centres in Mira-Bhayander, on the outskirts of Mumbai, October 6, 2016.Reuters

Four Indians and one Pakistani national on Tuesday pleaded guilty to the charges for their role in a massive telephone impersonation fraud in the United States, the department of justice said. The scam was designed to siphon money from the US, and was perpetrated by India-based call centres.

Three Indians — Rajubhai Patel, Viraj Patel, Dilip Kumar Ambal Patel — and a Pakistani — Farhad Ali — pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy before US District Court judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas.

The fourth Indian, Hardik Patel, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy before the same court on June 2. The department of justice said that the sentencing dates for all the five defendants are still pending.

Hardik Patel, in his guilty plea, stated that he used to own and manage day-to-day operations of an India-based scam call centre before he left for the US.

Reports state that Hardik Patel, 31, used to communicate extensively through emails, texts and other means with many India-based co-defendants to operate the scheme and exchange scripts with them.

smartphone hacking
Representational ImageREUTERS

He admitted that he used to coordinate the processing of payments from scammed victims, obtain and exchange lead lists used by callers to target US victims, and exchange spreadsheets containing the personal identifying information (PII) of US persons misappropriated by the scammers to register reloadable cards used in the scheme, according to PTI.

He also handled worker payroll and kept detailed records of profits and expenses for various associated scam call centres.

Rajubhai Patel, in his guilty plea on June 6, said that he operated as a runner and assisted a co-defendant in managing the activities of a crew of other runners, based primarily out of Illinois, who liquidated victim funds in various locales in the US for conspirators from India-based call centres.

Another Indian defendant, Viraj Patel, said that he became involved in the scam between April and September 2013, before coming to the US. He used to oversee the operations of a call centre in India, which engaged in scam activity at the behest of a co-defendant.

Dilip Kumar A Patel operated as a runner in and around Southern California, along with other co-defendants based in the region, PTI reported.

The Pakistani national, Fahad Ali, used to work as a member of a crew of runners operating in Chicago, Illinois area, the Southern District of Texas and elsewhere throughout the country.

Reports state that till now, at least 56 people and five India-based call centres have been charged for their roles in the fraud and money laundering scheme in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas on October 19 2016.