Sahil Patel Gets 14-Year Sentence
In the digital age, tax refund fraud and identity theft have become enormous problems. When technology, law enforcement and consumers finally catch up to the thieves, time will only tell. But there seems to be some recent headway with some high profile arrests and even long prison terms.
A leader in an India-based scam that scared American taxpayers into sending millions of dollars because they thought the U.S. government was after them was sentenced Wednesday to more than 14 years in prison and $1 million in forfeiture for his role in organizing the U.S. side of a massive fraud and extortion ring run through various “call centers” located in India, through which Patel and his co-conspirators impersonated American law enforcement officials and threatened victims with arrest and financial penalties unless those victims made payments to avoid purported charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Adams told the judge the fraud was “perfectly designed” to manipulate financially distressed people who would fear arrest threats.
“This man preyed on hundreds of people who were particularly vulnerable,” Adams said. Adams said in court papers that callers in India impersonated law enforcement officials, threatening victims with financial penalties and arrest, and used an Internet-based calling service that made it appear phone numbers came from various governmental offices.
Sahil Patel, 36, sobbed as he apologized for his crimes before he was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein for conspiring to extort, to impersonate government officials and to commit wire fraud.
Defense attorney B. Alan Seidler said the government overstated Patel’s role. Seidler said Patel was not a mastermind but rather arranged debit cards so victims could send money. He said Patel kept 7 percent, forwarding the rest to call center employees.
Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who imposed the sentence Wednesday said, “The nature of this crime robbed people of their identities and their money in a way that causes people to feel they have been almost destroyed,”. In issuing the severe sentence, Judge Hellersteing further said he wanted to send a message to others considering similar crimes.
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