As many as 21 Indian-origin people were on Friday convicted and sentenced up to 20 years in prison in the United States, for their involvement in a multi-million-dollar India-based call centre scam, which defrauded thousands of US citizens of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The sentences awarded to the 21 people range from four to 20 years.
“The stiff sentences imposed represent the culmination of the first-ever large scale, multi-jurisdiction prosecution targeting the India call centre scam industry,” US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.
“This case represents one of the most significant victories to date in our continuing efforts to combat elder fraud and the victimisation of the most vulnerable members of the US public,” Sessions said.
“The transnational criminal ring of fraudsters and money launderers who conspired to bilk older Americans, legal immigrants and many others out of their life savings through their lies, threats and financial schemes must recognise that all resources at the Department’s disposal will be deployed to shut down these telefraud schemes, put those responsible in jail, and bring a measure of justice to the victims,” Sessions said.
The US Justice Department said the accused had set up call centres in India from where individuals called up American citizens posing as officials from the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) or US Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCSIS), designed to defraud victims located throughout America and forced them to pay fines or face arrest and deportation.
Victims who agreed to pay the scammers were instructed how to make a payment, including by purchasing stored value cards, direct bank deposits or iTunes and wire transfers.
Once the payment was made, the call centres alerted a network of runners in the US to liquidate and launder the extorted funds as quickly as possible by purchasing reloadable cards or retrieving wire transfers.
The US Justice department also said 32 India-based conspirators and five India-based call centres with general conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy were also named in the indictment but haven’t been prosecuted yet.
(With inputs from agencies)