Indian-American woman pleads guilty to call centres scam in US


Washington (PTI): An Indian-American woman from Alabama has pleaded guilty to her involvement in a multi-million dollar scam in which people in the US were cheated by India-based call centres.

Nilam Parikh, 46, pleaded guilty before US District Court Judge David Hittner of southern district of Texas. She along with three other Indian nationals committed the frauds, the US Justice Department said yesterday.

The sentencing in the case is scheduled for August 11.

According to the admissions made in connection with the plea, Parikh and her co-conspirators perpetrated a complex scheme in which individuals from call centres located in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad posed as IRS or US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials to defraud people located across America, it said.

Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, the operators of the call centres targeted victims and threatened them with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay the alleged monies owed to the government.

Those who agreed to pay the scammers were instructed how to make the payment, including by purchasing stored value cards or wiring money.

After the payment, the call center employees would immediately turn to a network of “runners” based in the US to liquidate and launder the fraudulently-obtained funds, the Justice Department said.

Since December 2013, Parikh worked as a runner operating in Alabama.

In connection with her plea, Parikh admitted that at the direction of an India-based co-conspirator, often via WhatsApp texts, she purchased reloadable cards registered with misappropriated personal identifying information of US citizens.

Once the fraudulently proceeds were loaded onto those cards, she liquidated them on the cards and transferred the funds into various bank accounts, while keeping some part of the funds for herself.

Parikh also admitted to sending and receiving scam proceeds to and from her co-conspirators via Federal Express.

Till date, Parikh and 55 other individuals and five India-based call centres have been charged for their roles in the fraud and money laundering scheme in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas on October 19, 2016.