A federal grand jury Thursday charged the head of a debt collection scam operation with 21 separate counts of various federal crimes. The fake debt collection scheme, which operated out of call centers in India, was shut down by the Federal Trade Commission in April.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, Benjamin B. Wagner, Thursday announced the indictment against Kirit Patel of Tracy, Calif. The grand jury charged Patel with 21 counts of mail and wire fraud for his role in a scam that attempted to get American consumers to pay on non-existent payday loans via calls from Indian call centers.
The scheme involved more than 2.7 million calls to at least 600,000 different phone numbers nationwide. In less than two years, it fraudulently collected more than $5.2 million.
Patel’s scam was halted in April when the FTC won a court order to freeze operations and seize assets while it investigated further. At the time, the FTC specifically charged Patel and his company with violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Often pretending to be American law enforcement agents such as “Officer Mike Johnson” or representatives of fake government agencies like the “Federal Crime Unit of the Department of Justice,” callers from India who were working with Patel would harass consumers with back-to-back calls, according to the FTC. One consumer reported that the caller threatened to have her children taken away if she did not pay, according to court documents.
All of the payments received from the call centers in India were routed through a California-based company set up by Patel.
In a follow-up story from ABC News, a lawyer for Patel noted that his client was hired to set up an American shell company, and had no idea what the call centers in India were doing.
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- The Future of Compliance for the Debt Collection Industry