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Indian American couple charged in Atlanta for laundering $400,000 on behalf of phone scammers

Atlanta, GA, July 15, 2020: Federal agents have arrested a husband and wife team, Mehulkumar Manubhai Patel and Chitali Dave, for laundering over $400,000 on behalf of India-based phone scammers.

“Criminal India-based call centers sought to prey on vulnerable members of our community and steal from them by misleading them over the phone,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “Those, like Patel and Dave, who allegedly launder money in the United States on behalf of foreign-based fraudsters, are the linchpins of those schemes.”

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: Criminal India-based call centers defraud U.S. residents, including the elderly, by misleading victims over the telephone utilizing scams such as Social Security and tech support scams.

As part of their Social Security scam, India-based callers pose as federal agents in order to mislead victims into believing their Social Security numbers were involved in crimes.  Callers threatened arrest and the loss of the victims’ assets if the victims did not send money.  The callers directed victims to mail cash to aliases used by other members of the fraud network, including Patel and Dave.

As part of the tech support scam, callers allegedly induced victims to send money in exchange for supposed technical support for their computers.  The callers then provided nothing in return.  At times, callers misled the victims into providing remote access to their computers and the callers would access the victims’ bank accounts.  The callers routinely misled the victims by making it appear as though the caller added money to the victims’ bank accounts.  The callers then instructed the victims to mail cash to aliases used by other members of the fraud network, including Patel and Dave.

Based on misrepresentations made during the calls, the victims, including a number of Georgia residents, mailed money to a network of individuals that allegedly laundered funds on behalf of the overseas fraud network.  From on or about May 2019, to on or about January 2020, Patel and Dave allegedly laundered over $400,000 sent by at least twenty-four victims of the scams.

On June 9, 2020, Mehulkumar Manubhai Patel, 36, and Chitali Dave, 36, both of Lexington, South Carolina, were charged by a federal grand jury with money laundering conspiracy and money laundering.  Patel was arraigned on June 19, 2020 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher C. Bly.  Defendant Dave was arraigned on July 14, 2020 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda T. Walker. 

Separately, on July 9, 2020, the U.S. District Court Judge William M. Ray, II sentenced defendant Joish Patel to over two years in prison by for his role in a criminal India-based phone scam.  In 2017, Patel picked up over $140,000 dollars in victim funds using fake IDs. Some victims in that case sent money to aliases used by Joish Patel in response to an IRS scam where callers claimed they owed taxes or would be arrested.  Other victims were tricked into believing that they needed to send money in order to qualify for loans.

The Social Security Administration – Office of the Inspector General is investigating the Mehulkumar Manubhai Patel and Chitali Dave case, with the assistance of the U.S. Secret Service, Aiken Department of Public Safety (South Carolina), Naperville Police Department (Illinois), Lexington County Sheriff’s Department (South Carolina), Rocky River Police Department (Ohio), and Henrico County Police Division (Virginia). 

The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) investigated the Joish Patel case.

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Some 180 academic institutions, including Emory University, have joined a lawsuit against President Donald Trump administration’s decision to ban foreign students taking only online courses. On July 6, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had unveiled new guidelines for F-1 and M-1 visas given to students restricting them to only students who take in-person courses or a combination of online and in-person courses. Those who take only online courses would not be eligible for the visa. As many universities switch to online teaching because of COVID-19 restrictions, not all foreign students can take in-person courses and they could be denied visas or fall out out visa status and have to leave the US. This move prompted the elite Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to launch the lawsuit. The 22-page document issued by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration representing 180 higher education institutions showed a nationwide support for rescinding the guidance. “ICE’s new policy serves only to severely disrupt international students’ educational attainment, and our country is worse off for it,” said Miriam Feldblum, executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration in a statement posted on the group’s official website. “This quasi-international student ban represents another unfortunate assault by the administration against immigrants and higher education,” she added. The Alliance comprised over 450 presidents and chancellors of public and private colleges and universities, representing over 5 million students in 41 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. As of Saturday, hundreds of thousands of signatures have been collected online from supporters of several open letters and petitions that slammed the Trump administration’s decision. Full report on our website. Link in bio. . #internationalstudents #foreignstudents #studentvisa #lawsuit

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