ATLANTA – Husband and wife Mehulkumar Manubhai Patel and Chaitali Dave have pleaded guilty to laundering over $500,000 on behalf of India-based phone scammers.
“Dave and Patel helped criminal India-based call centers prey on and steal from vulnerable members of our community,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “While posing as federal agents or tech support, the call centers instructed victims to mail packages of cash that Patel and Dave retrieved using fake identifications. This case exists as an example of our commitment to investigating and prosecuting those who facilitate foreign-based scams.”
“These guilty pleas demonstrate the value of a coordinated, multi-agency approach to combating overseas telephone scams by targeting their facilitators in the United States,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for Social Security. “We will continue to work with the Department of Justice and our investigative partners to pursue these unscrupulous individuals, who continue to deceive and harm American consumers.”
“It is important to remind family and friends to never provide money or personal information to unknown callers when they receive a suspicious call,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security. “People should just hang up and then go online to oig.ssa.gov to report these scams to Social Security.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: Criminal India-based call centers defraud U.S. residents, including the elderly, by misleading victims over the telephone utilizing scams such as Social Security and tech support scams.
As part of their Social Security scam, India-based callers pose as federal agents in order to mislead victims into believing their Social Security numbers were involved in crimes. Callers threatened arrest and the loss of the victims’ assets if the victims did not send money. The callers directed victims to mail cash to aliases used by other members of the fraud network, including Patel and Dave.
As part of the tech support scam, callers allegedly induced victims to send money in exchange for supposed technical support for their computers. The callers then provided nothing in return. At times, callers misled the victims into providing remote access to their computers and the callers would access the victims’ bank accounts. The callers routinely misled the victims by making it appear as though the caller added money to the victims’ bank accounts. The callers then instructed the victims to mail cash to aliases used by other members of the fraud network, including Patel and Dave.
Based on misrepresentations made during the calls, the victims, including Georgia residents, mailed money to a network of individuals that laundered funds on behalf of the overseas fraud network. From on or about May 2019, to on or about January 2020, Patel and Dave laundered over $500,000 sent by dozens of scam victims.
Mehulkumar Manubhai Patel, 36, and Chaitali Dave, 36, of Lexington, South Carolina, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg on September 1, 2020 and on October 6, 2020 respectively.
The Social Security Administration – Office of the Inspector General is investigating the case with the assistance of the U.S. Secret Service, El Dorado Task Force (New York), Aiken Department of Public Safety (South Carolina), Naperville Police Department (Illinois), Lexington County Sheriff’s Department (South Carolina), Rocky River Police Department (Ohio), Polk County Sheriff’s Office (Florida) and Henrico County Police Division (Virginia).
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane Schulman is prosecuting the case. Former Northern District of Georgia Elder Justice Coordinator and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jolee Porter previously prosecuted the case.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is part of the Department of Justice Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force. The Strike Force focuses on investigating and prosecuting defendants associated with foreign-based fraud schemes that disproportionately affect American seniors. These include romance scams, phone scams, mass-mailing fraud schemes, and tech-support fraud schemes. For further information on these scams, see https://www.justice.gov/elderjustice/senior-scam-alert.
The public should exercise caution with any caller who claims to be a government employee. Government agencies will never threaten you with immediate arrest or other legal action if you do not send cash, retail gift cards, wire transfers, or internet currency. They will also never demand secrecy from you in resolving a debt or any other problem. If you need to send a payment to Social Security, SSA will send a letter with payment options and appeal rights. If you suspect you have received a Social Security scam call, report it at https://oig.ssa.gov.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.