Indian national involved in $312m call centre scam extradited from Singapore to US

SINGAPORE - A 42-year-old Indian national was extradited to the United States on Thursday (April 18) for his role in a call centre scam which targeted over 15,000 people in the US. Victims were cheated of at least US$230 million (S$312 million).

In a joint statement on Saturday, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) and the Singapore Police Force said that Singapore received a request from the US government for the extradition of Hitesh Madhubhai Patel last September.

Patel is suspected to be part of an Indian-based transnational criminal organisation and has been indicted in the US.

He allegedly carried out a large, sophisticated and highly successful India-based telephone impersonation fraud and money laundering scheme from January 2012 to October 2016.

Twenty-four of Patel’s co-conspirators have been sentenced in the US to up to 20 years in jail, in what has been described as the first large-scale, multi-jurisdiction prosecution targeting the India call centre scam industry.

Officers from the Commercial Affairs Department arrested Patel on Sept 21, 2018, in consultation with the AGC and pursuant to a warrant issued by the State Courts of Singapore.

The State Courts held that Patel was liable to be extradited to the US to stand trial for general conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.

“This case underscores Singapore’s commitment to working in close cooperation with our international counterparts in the context of transnational crime, so that enforcement agencies are able to effectively deal with persons operating across borders,” the statement said.

 
 
 

The US Department of Justice said in a statement on Friday that Patel was expected to be arraigned in a federal court in Houston the same day. 

He allegedly operated the HGlobal call centre conglomerate and participated in a complex scheme involving a network of call centres based in Ahmedabad, India.

According to the US Justice Department’s statement, India-based conspirators purportedly used information obtained from data brokers and other sources to find potential victims.

They impersonated officials from the Internal Revenue Service or US Citizenship and Immigration services, and threatened victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay taxes or penalties to the government. 

The call centres then used a network of US-based conspirators to liquidate and launder extorted funds through stored value cards or wire transfers.

The conspirators collected the wire transfers by using fake names and fraudulent identifications.

According to the indictment, the call centre conspirators also defrauded victims through other schemes, such as offering fake short-term loans or grants. 

“This extradition once again demonstrates the department’s unwavering commitment to disrupt and dismantle the India-based call centre scam industry and to work with our foreign partners to hold accountable those who perpetrate schemes that defraud our citizens,” Assistant Attorney-General Brian A. Benczkowski said. 

“I especially would like to thank our Singaporean colleagues for their excellent cooperation with this extradition and their commitment to combating transnational organised crime.”