An Indian national has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and identity theft in connection with an overseas robocall scam that defrauded thousands in the US, mostly elderly people, of nearly 8 million dollars, the Department of Justice said.
Shehzadkhan Pathan, 39, operated a call centre in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad that placed automated robocalls to victims in the United States, as per court documents.
After establishing contact with the victims through these automated calls, Pathan and other “closers” at his call centre would coerce, cajole, and trick victims to send bulk cash through physical shipments and electronic money transfers, federal prosecutors alleged.
Pathan and his conspirators used a variety of schemes to convince victims to send money, including impersonating law enforcement officers from the FBI and DEA and representatives of other government agencies such as the Social Security Administration, to threaten victims with severe legal and financial consequences. Conspirators also convinced the victims to send money as initial installments for falsely promised loans, the court documents said.
According to the court papers, Pathan also recruited and supervised several money mules, who he directed to receive money sent by the victims. His network of money mules was located in multiple states, including but not limited to Virginia, New Jersey, Minnesota, Texas, California, South Carolina, and Illinois.
Pathan assigned various aliases to these individuals and supplied them with hundreds of counterfeit identification documents to facilitate their receipt of cash shipments and money transfers.
He then directed the money mules to send the money to himself and other conspirators through various means, including cash deposits into numerous bank accounts and via informal money transmitters known as hawalas, the prosecutors alleged.
The Department of Justice said Pathan’s scams disproportionately targeted elderly victims, many of whom suffered substantial financial hardship. In total, Pathan is responsible for defrauding over 5,000 US victims of at least USD8 million, it added.
His sentencing is scheduled for May 14. Pathan faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the conspiracy, along with a mandatory consecutive term of two years for aggravated identity theft.