A 28-year-old Indian citizen has entered a guilty plea in a years-long international conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud that saw millions of dollars being extorted from hundreds of victims in the US.
Zaheen Malvi, who was illegally residing in Heber Springs, Arkansas, assisted Indian call centres in the telemarketing scheme scam, US Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Alamdar S. Hamdani announced.
“The Indian call centres perpetrating these scams are relentless,” said Hamdani.
“They prey on the fears and insecurities of the most vulnerable among us, such as the elderly. But we are relentless too. Today, one more criminal is finally held to account for the many years he helped funnel money from victims into the pockets of overseas scammersaand tomorrow, we keep working.”
The court noted that Malvi first acted as a runner in the scheme, going to different Target stores in the Chicago area and depleting funds from gift cards that victims had transferred to the call centres.
In later years, he managed other runners as they traveled around the country, picking up packages filled with cash that call center victims had mailed.
A common script used in the scheme involved coercing victims into believing federal agents were investigating them.
The “agent” on the phone would convince the victim the only way to clear his or her name from investigation was to buy gift cards and transfer the redemption codes to the call centre or mail cash in a package to a name and address the call centre provided.
Runners in the US would then deplete the gift card funds and pick up the packages.
As part of his plea agreement, Malvi will pay restitution to the scheme’s identified victims.
US District Judge Andrew S. Hanen accepted the plea and set sentencing for August 14.
At that time, Malvi faces up to 20 years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
He will remain in custody pending that hearing.