The US Justice Department has charged 61 people and entities with participating in a $300 million scam that cheated at least 15,000 people since 2013.
According to Thomson Reuters, the scam involved India-based call centers where agents impersonating IRS agents, immigration and other federal officials demanded payments for nonexistent debts. The defendants, including 24 people arrested in nine US states, were indicted by a grand jury in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas. In addition to those arrested in the US, 32 individuals and five call centers in India have been charged.
According to the indictment, the operators of the call centers in Ahmedabad, in the Indian state of Gujarat, "threatened potential victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay taxes or penalties to the government." Payments by the victims were "laundered" by a US network of co-conspirators who used prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, often using stolen or fake identities.
The call centers also used scams in which victims were offered short-term loans or grants on condition they provided good-faith deposits or payment of a processing fee.
Among those involved in the investigation were Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Treasury, Homeland Security, US Secret Service and police officials.