A scammer who organized a scheme in which taxpayers were threatened with calls purporting to come from the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI demanding payment has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Sahil Patel was sentenced to 175 months in prison and $1 million in forfeiture for his role in organizing the U.S. side of a massive fraud and extortion ring run through various “call centers” located in India, through which Patel and his co-conspirators impersonated American law enforcement officials and threatened victims with arrest and financial penalties unless those victims made payments to avoid purported charges.
In addition to the prison sentence, Patel, 36, of Tatamy, Pa., was sentenced to three years of supervised release.
Patel pleaded guilty in January 2015 before U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who imposed the sentence Wednesday. “The nature of this crime robbed people of their identities and their money in a way that causes people to feel they have been almost destroyed,” said Hellerstein.
According to prosecutors, from Dec. 2011 through the day of his arrest on Dec. 18, 2013, Patel participated as a leader in a sophisticated scheme to intimidate and defraud hundreds of innocent victims of hundreds of dollars apiece. Throughout the course of the fraud, telephone call centers located in India hired English-speaking employees to place telephone calls to individuals living in the U.S.
Armed with long lists of potential victims, referred to by Patel and his co-conspirators as “lead sheets,” those India-based callers systematically placed thousands of calls to individuals in the U.S. in the hopes of intimidating the call recipients into providing a payment to the co-conspirators. To extort these victims, the India-based callers impersonated law enforcement officials of the FBI and IRS and threatened their victims with financial penalties and arrest in connection with fabricated financial crimes.
“Sahil Patel’s elaborate scheme involved impersonating law enforcement officers and using intimidation and fear to bilk over a million dollars from hundreds of unsuspecting victims,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement.
In order to receive funds in a manner that would mask the identity of Patel and his co-conspirators, the ring undertook several measures to anonymize itself, including by using anonymized voice-over-internet technology, which was subscribed under fraudulent names in order to give the appearance of being related to U.S. law enforcement agencies.
Patel and his co-conspirators also used several layers of wire transactions in order to conceal the destination and nature of the extorted payments, which totaled at least $1.2 million.
The scam has been continuing and on the rise this year despite Patel’s arrest. Taxpayers who have been targeted by the scam can report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at www.tigta.gov and clicking on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting tab in the upper right corner, or call the TIGTA hotline at 1-800-366-4484.