Three Tampa Men Accused in IRS Phone Scam
They misled people into believing that they owed money to the IRS and would be arrested and fined if they did not pay their alleged back taxes immediately by sending money to them, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
TAMPA – Three men from Tampa have been indicted on charges relating to a scam during which IRS agents were impersonated, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida said.
Nishitkumar Patel, 31, Hemalkumar Shah, 27, and Sharvil Patel, 22, all of Tampa, were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and extortion, and substantive counts of wire fraud and extortion. The indictment also charges Nishitkumar Patel and Hemalkumar Patel with money laundering and aggravated identity theft.
Each of the three defendants faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on each count of wire fraud conspiracy, extortion conspiracy, wire fraud, and extortion.
Nishitkumar Patel and Hemalkumar Patel face an additional penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison for money laundering, and a minimum mandatory consecutive two years in prison for aggravated identity theft. The indictment also notifies the defendants that the U.S. is seeking a money judgment in the amount of at least $2.27 million, the proceeds of the wire fraud and extortion conspiracies.
According to the indictment, from 2014 through at least 2016, the defendants conspired with India-based call centers to extort money from U.S. residents by impersonating IRS officers. The defendants misled their victims to believe that they owed money to the IRS and would be arrested and fined if they did not pay their alleged back taxes immediately, so the victims would pay the defendants.
The defendants collected the fraud proceeds by (1) withdrawing cash from prepaid cards purchased and funded by victims; (2) hiring other conspirators (runners) to retrieve money wired by the victims to those runners; and/or (3) hiring runners to open bank accounts into which victims deposited fraud proceeds.
To collect the fraud proceeds, the defendants provided the runners with the victims’ names, locations, and amount paid. The defendants directed the runners to retrieve the fraud proceeds in cash, and remit it to the defendants, often less a payment to the runner for opening the account or conducting the transaction.
On Oct. 23, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at the home of Nishitkumar Patel and Hemalkumar Patel. Among other items, they seized about $50,000 in cash, hundreds of bank and wire transfer receipts, and 20 electronic devices.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
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