This week, the BBC showed scammers at work in an Indian call centre, recorded by an activist who hacked into the company’s security cameras. Staff were seen laughing at their victims in the US and the UK. But who are these scammers, and how do they justify their actions?
Behind a pair of mirrored sunglasses, Piyush is telling me how he made a quarter of a million dollars.
“It was easy money,” he says, detailing how he bought fancy cars and wore designer clothes.
From a modest background, Piyush made a fortune by defrauding innocent victims at the other end of a phone.
“To become a rock star we have to do something,” he says.
“Become a thief?” I ask.
“Right,” he replies coolly.
Piyush meets me in a friend’s apartment, in one of Delhi’s richest neighbourhoods. The group of young men I’ve come to talk to all have one thing in common – they’ve worked in India’s scam call-centre industry.
The company Piyush worked for ran what is known as a “tech support scam”. It would send a pop-up to people’s screens, telling them their computer had been infected by a “pornographic virus” or other malware, and giving them a helpline number to call.
As panicking customers rang in, Piyush and his colleagues would milk them for money, to fix a problem that didn’t actually exist.
Piyush tells me that tricking people is an “art”.
“We used to target the old people,” he says.
“There are many old people in the US who don’t have families, are alone and are disabled, so it’s very easy to trick them.”
I look at this man sitting opposite me in his baggy jeans and hipster T-shirt and wonder how he could be so cold-hearted. How would he feel if his own grandparents were victims of scamming, I ask?
“Yeah, I will feel bad,” he says. “I did it because I needed money and that’s it.”
Ohio plastic surgeon charged with drugging, raping women on camera
A plastic surgeon primarily based in Ohio was arrested Friday by the FBI for allegedly drugging multiple women to the point of unconsciousness and raping them on camera.
Dr. Manish Gupta, 49, is charged with illegally dispensing controlled substances, aggravated sexual abuse and sex trafficking, Toledo’s WTVG reported. He was booked into Lucas County Corrections Center in Toledo Friday afternoon after a federal search warrant on his phone, residence, personal vehicle and two offices in Lucas County uncovered sex toys, camera equipment, SD cards and vials of Diazepam and Ketamine, which are controlled substances not used in his medical practice, according to WTVG.
While visiting Los Angeles in 2016 to attend a plastic surgery convention, Gupta allegedly arranged for sex with a high-end escort, drugged her to the point of unconsciousness and raped her, according to a court filing in the U.S. District Court in Toledo.
The woman did not file a police report at the time. She took an at-home drug test that showed she had signs of benzodiazepine, a type of medication known as a tranquilizer, in her system, Toledo’s WTOL reported, citing the court filing. She later visited the Rape Treatment Center at the UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, where she had a rape kit exam performed, WTVG reported.
The woman researched Gupta in an online database used by sex workers to make others aware of possibly dangerous individuals, according to the filing. She said she found multiple other women had reported a man either matching Gupta’s name or description, claiming he drugged, raped and possibly recorded them without their consent, WTOL reported.
Gupta is a board-certified plastic surgeon and medical doctor licensed in both Ohio and Michigan. He owns Artisan Cosmetic Surgery, which has two offices in Ohio and one in Michigan, WTVG reported.
The FBI launched an investigation into the claims against Gupta in January 2019. The investigation revealed that in 2014, an employee working for Gupta found multiple SDs with videos showing the plastic surgeon performing sex acts on motionless women who appeared to be unconscious. In February of this year, the State of Ohio Medical Board received a complaint claiming Gupta had been drugging and raping women for years.
BTW, I found a photo on line of Gupta and his female staffers although his social media accounts have been removed from on-line. I was going to post the photo, but chose not to because when you read more about the case you will see that some of his staff participated in bringing him to justice. I wouldn’t want there to be any reprisals against them.
He was on the run and we tracked him down in Singapore.
If you’ve ever gotten one of those calls where someone tells you they are from the IRS and you owe money, surely you hung up! However thousands of gullible people did not hang up and sent this Indian crook their hard-earned money.
Well one more of the international crooks ripping us off will now be behind bars.
Thanks to reader Charles for tipping me off about this story, hereis the US Justice Departmentnews about Hitesh Madhubhai Patel aka Hitesh Hinglaj, 43, of Ahmedabad, India:
(By the way, I like the fact that we are now seeing mention of the nationality of crooks more prominently mentioned sparing us from having to spend time playing the secret decoder ring game with the criminal’s name.)
Indian national convicted of role in call center scam that victimized thousands in the U.S.
HOUSTON – An Indian national has entered a guilty plea for his role in operating and funding India-based call centers which defrauded thousands of victims out of millions of dollars between 2013 and 2016.
Hitesh Madhubhai Patel aka Hitesh Hinglaj, 43, of Ahmedabad, India, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud as well as a general conspiracy to commit identification fraud, access device fraud, money laundering and to impersonate a federal officer or employee.
“Hitesh Patel played a prominent role in this massive, India-based fraud scheme that bilked vulnerable Americans out of millions of dollars,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This important resolution would not have occurred without the assistance of our Singaporean colleagues, to whom we extend our deep appreciation.”
Patel and his conspirators perpetrated a complex scheme in which employees from call centers in Ahmedabad, India, impersonated officials from the IRS and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They also engaged in other telephone call scams designed to defraud victims throughout the United States. U.S. victims were threatened with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged monies owed to the government.
Those who fell victim to the scammers were instructed how to provide payment, including by purchasing general purpose reloadable (GPR) cards or wiring money. Upon payment, the call centers would immediately turn to a network of “runners” based in the United States to liquidate and launder the fraudulently-obtained funds.
In his plea, Patel admitted to operating and funding several India-based call centers from which the fraud schemes were perpetrated, including organizational co-defendant call center HGLOBAL. Patel frequently corresponded by email and WhatsApp messaging with co-defendants to exchange credit card numbers, telephone scam scripts, deposit slips, payment information, call center operations information, instructions and bank account information. The scripts included impersonation of IRS, USCIS, Canada Revenue Agency and Australian Tax Office personnel as well as payday loan, U.S. government grant and debt collection fraud schemes.
Patel also received monthly income and expense reports to his personal email from the call centers and used his Indian cell phone number to access GPR cards through automated telephone systems on many occasions.
A co-defendant described Patel as “the top person in India and the boss for whom most of the other defendants worked.” Another co-defendant claimed Patel was arrested in India in 2016, but paid a bribe and was released. Additionally, Patel admitted he was accountable for approximately $25-65 million.
Patel was extradited from Singapore in April 2019 to face charges in this large-scale telefraud and money laundering scheme. Singapore authorities apprehended Patel at the request of the United States pursuant to a provisional arrest warrant in September 2018 after Patel flew there from India.
As I have said before, the President should regularly highlight all of the scams his Justice Department is busting.
Babubhai Bhurabhai Rathod — a New American who brought cultural diversity and an entrepreneurial spirit to Michigan!
And, one of the most stunning things about this case, where Rathod has been sentenced to twelve years, is that he had already served prison time for the same theft from a similar Medicare and Medicaid fraud scheme.
The Judge on sentencing him this time said this,
Judge Neff described Rathod as both “a man for whom the truth is a stranger” and a naturalized citizen who has “taken advantage of opportunities available in this country to steal from it.”
Ketan Shah was arrested recently at a casino in California after he skipped town with proceeds from a scam where he allegedly “sold” non-existent tickets to the Atlanta Super Bowl game.
Shah was described in news accounts as being a member of the board of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce which quickly dumped him from the board. See here.
Does it annoy you, it does me! to see that there are organizations like this one in America where they are working to promote their own ethnic group.
What happened to the idea of assimilation? Is America a hodgepodge of ethnic and racial groups each looking out for their own interests? I never see the ‘melting pot’ pushers try to discourage this practice for ‘new Americans.’
From the Gwinnett Daily Post,
Gwinnett businessman accused in $1 million Super Bowl ticket scam arrested in California casino
The Gwinnett County man accused of scamming people out of nearly $1 million in Super Bowl tickets has been arrested in California.
Police began looking for Ketan Shah days before the Super Bowl, after several people, including his own mother, claimed the Lawrenceville man went missing after taking thousands of dollars.
At least six people had reported to Gwinnett Police that Shah had offered to sell them Super Bowl tickets. One of the victims also reported he paid $500,000 for his entertainment company to host a large Super Bowl event at “an arena.”
The setup, incident reports show, was the same for almost all of the victims: Shah, a well-connected businessman in Gwinnett who was a board member of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, would provide the victims with their requested number of tickets after they sent Shah their money.
But that never happened, said Cpl. Wilbert Rundles, a spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department.
It was discovered that Shah was reported as a missing person in December. He returned home and was removed from the system, police said. It was discovered that he had gone to Las Vegas, Nevada, on what was described as a mid-life crisis. He left again a couple days later and his family had not seen him since.
Heck, this is such a strange fraud scheme, I’m going to leave it uncategorized!
By the way, as I build an archive of stories here, use the categories found in the right hand sidebar at Frauds and Crooksfor further reference.
Tags at the end of each post include states (if applicable) so eventually you will be able to see how your state is doing in the frauds, crooks and criminals department!