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Extortion uncovered in an elaborate call center fraud scheme

An example of extortion carried out on a broad scale is demonstrated by the arrest and conviction of a man who set up call centers used to defraud unsuspecting victims out of large sums of money.

The 2015 conviction was the result of months of work by the FBI and other government agencies who partnered in the effort to stop the extortion and apprehend the leader.

Making calls to taxpayers

From December 2011 to December 2013, call center operators based in India contacted thousands of taxpayers living in the United States and accused them of fabricated crimes. Armed with “lead sheets” supplied by the co-conspirators, the callers impersonated IRS and FBI officials and threatened their targets with financial penalties or arrest, thereby intimidating them into providing payments, some of which were in the hundreds, and some in the thousands, of dollars.

Transferring funds

The leader, Sahil Patel, needed to hide his identity and those of his co-conspirators. Among other measures, they used anonymized voice-over internet technology and fake names to make it appear there was a tie-in to U.S. law enforcement agencies. They then used several layers of wire transactions to hide both the nature of the extorted payments and the ultimate destination of the funds.

Facing the consequences

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with colleagues from the FBI and United States Treasury, announced the conviction of Patel in July 2015. Patel pleaded guilty to four charges, including impersonating government officials and conspiring to commit wire fraud. He is now serving a prison term of 175 months. His conviction also included $1 million in forfeiture. Once his prison term is over, he can expect another three years of supervised release. Those facing similar charges need an experienced criminal defense attorney to create a defense strategy and avoid the harsh legal penalties for extortion.



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