Couple sentenced for laundering over $500,000 on behalf of India-based phone scammers

Date: 
Thursday, April 29, 2021
Office Affiliation: 

From the U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Georgia:

ATLANTA – Husband and wife Mehulkumar Manubhai Patel and Chaitali Dave have been sentenced for laundering over $500,000 on behalf of India-based phone scammers. 
 
“International call centers continue to victimize the elderly and most vulnerable members of our community,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine.  “The defendants worked with call centers to prey on and steal from these vulnerable victims.  This case exists as an example of our commitment to investigating and prosecuting those who facilitate foreign-based scams.  Citizens are reminded never to provide money or personal information to callers they don’t know and trust.”
 
“These convictions should stand as a warning that my office will aggressively investigate and work to hold those accountable who collect and transmit money from Social Security imposter scam victims,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. “I want to thank the U.S Attorney’s Office for its leadership in bringing scam perpetrators and facilitators to justice, and our law enforcement partners who provided valuable assistance throughout this investigation.”
 
“We applaud all of the people who investigated and prosecuted this scam case,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security.  “Never provide money or personal information to unknown callers when you receive a suspicious call.  Just hang up and then go online to www.oig.ssa.gov to report these scams to Social Security.”
 
“We are duty bound to combat fraud schemes that victimize the public,” said U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Steven Baisel. “Efforts to purposely target the elderly are particularly heinous. We take great pride in working collaboratively to catch these kinds of offenders.”
 
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Erskine, 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 posed 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 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.
 
Chaitali Dave, 36, of Lamar, South Carolina, was sentenced on April 28, 2021, to one year, eight months to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $320,550 in restitution.
 
Mehulkumar Manubhai Patel, 36, of Lamar, South Carolina, was sentenced on December 1, 2020, to two years, six months, to be followed by two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $259,217 in restitution. The Social Security Administration - Office of the Inspector General investigated 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 prosecuted the case.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Jolee Porter, the former Elder Justice Coordinator 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.