Department of JusticeOffice of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEWednesday, April 26, 2017
Second Indian National Pleads Guilty for Role in Multi-Million Dollar India-Based Call Center Scam Targeting U.S. Victims
An Indian national pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering for his role in liquidating and laundering victim payments generated through various telephone fraud and money laundering schemes via India-based call centers.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez of the Southern District of Texas, Executive Associate Director Peter T. Edge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Inspector General J. Russell George of the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and Inspector General John Roth of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) made the announcement.
Ashvinbhai Chaudhari, 28, an Indian national who most recently resided in Austin, Texas, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas. Sentencing is currently set for July 21, 2017.
According to admissions made in connection with the plea, Chaudhari and his co-conspirators perpetrated a complex scheme in which individuals from call centers located in Ahmedabad, India, impersonated officials from the IRS or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in a ruse designed to defraud victims located throughout the United States. Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, call center operators targeted U.S. victims who were threatened with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay alleged monies owed to the government. Victims who agreed to pay the scammers were instructed how to provide payment, including by purchasing stored value cards or wiring money, and upon payment, the call centers would immediately turn to a network of “runners” based in the U.S. to liquidate and launder the fraudulently-obtained funds.
According to his plea, since in or about April 2014, Chaudhari worked as a member of a crew of runners operating in Illinois, Georgia, Nevada, Texas and elsewhere throughout the country. At the direction of both U.S. and India-based co-conspirators, often via electronic WhatsApp text communications, Chaudhari admitted to driving around the country with other runners to purchase reloadable cards registered with misappropriated personal identifying information of U.S. citizens. Once victim scam proceeds were loaded onto those cards, Chaudhari admitted that he liquidated the proceeds on the cards and transferred the funds into money orders for deposit into various bank accounts while keeping a percentage of the victim funds for himself. Chaudhari also admitted to shipping money orders purchased with victim funds to other U.S. based co-conspirators, receiving fake identification documents from an India-based co-conspirator and using those documents to receive victim scam payments via wire transfers.
To date, Chaudhari, 55 other individuals and five India-based call centers have been charged for their roles in the fraud and money laundering scheme in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas on Oct. 19, 2016. Chaudhari is the second defendant thus far to plead guilty in this case.
The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
HSI, DHS-OIG and TIGTA led the investigation of this case. Also providing significant support was the Ft. Bend County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office; police departments in Hoffman Estates and Naperville, Illinois, and Leonia, New Jersey; San Diego County District Attorney’s Office Family Protection/Elder Abuse Unit; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Small Business Administration – Office of Inspector General; IOC-2; INTERPOL Washington; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service; and U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Northern District of Alabama, District of Arizona, Central District of California, Northern District of California, District of Colorado, Northern District of Florida, Middle District of Florida, Northern District of Illinois, Northern District of Indiana, District of Nevada and District of New Jersey. The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau also provided assistance in TIGTA’s investigation.
Senior Trial Attorney Michael Sheckels and Trial Attorney Mona Sahaf of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, Trial Attorney Robert Stapleton of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys S. Mark McIntyre and Craig M. Feazel of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case.
A Department of Justice website has been established to provide information about the case to already identified and potential victims, and the public. Anyone who believes they may be a victim of fraud or identity theft in relation to this investigation or other telefraud scam phone calls may contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) via this website.
Anyone who wants additional information about telefraud scams generally, or preventing identity theft or fraudulent use of their identity information, may obtain helpful information on the IRS tax scams website, the FTC phone scam website and the FTC identity theft website.
Department of JusticeOffice of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEWednesday, April 26, 2017
Northern California Restaurant Owner Sentenced to Prison for Obstructing the Tax Laws and Harboring Illegal Aliens for Profit
A Ukiah, California restaurateur was sentenced to serve 24 months in prison today for corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the internal revenue laws and harboring illegal aliens for profit, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch for the Northern District of California.
According to documents filed with the court, Yaowapha Ritdet, 56, hired Thai nationals who were illegally present in the United States to work at her restaurants, Ruen Tong Thai Cuisine and Walter Café, both located in Ukiah. Ritdet underpaid these employees and instructed them not to speak to anyone about their immigration status. Ritdet also paid her employees in cash and did not pay employment taxes on the cash wages.
Ritdet filed false individual income tax returns for 2007 through 2011 that underreported the gross receipts, sales, and income she received from her two restaurants, and failed to report rental income and a foreign bank account she held in Thailand.
In addition to the term of prison imposed, Ritdet was ordered to serve three years of supervised release and to pay approximately $567,755.65 in restitution to include $70,768.65 to underpaid employees and $496,987 to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Ritdet pleaded guilty in August 2016.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg and U.S. Attorney Stretch thanked special agents of IRS–Criminal Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, who conducted the investigation, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, which identified the underpayment of wages and overtime, and Trial Attorney Charles O’Reilly of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney José A Olivera, who prosecuted the case.
Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.
Kurusu pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with a wire fraud scheme involving the hiring of Indian teachers to teach in the US. He was found guilty on two counts of wire fraud; one count of fraud in foreign labor contracting; one count of tampering with a witness, victim or an informant; and, one count of making a false statement on a visa application.
Kurusu admitted that he had used fraudulent means to defraud individuals of amount higher than $50,000 during the period of December 2012 – May 2016. He promised them visa packages through his company that poised as a company offering H1-B visas, teaching jobs, and the maintenance of those jobs.
According to the US Attorney’s Office Western District of Texas, Kurusu, who is a temporary work visa holder, established a separate company called Samaritan Educational Services (Samaritan) that which is against the general H-1B rules.
Kurusu allegedly placed advertisements about his firm in Hyderabad, India, calling for application from people who are interested in teaching in the US, which will be processed for a fee. He was able to convince the applicants that they will have to move their visa and job application through his company in order to get the job.
Kurusu, who worked as a Math teacher at Fort Stockton High School located in Fort Stockton, Texas, acted as a middle man in between the applicants and both the State Department, the issuer of visas, and the Fort Stockton Independent School District (FSISD).
He made the victims believe that not a single penny of the amount they pay for the visa processing went to him. In the contrary, Kurusu filed the applications for a nominal fee and routed the rest to his pocket.
The victims provided Kurusu with the information required for setting up all paperwork for visa and to obtain a job at FSISD. While promoting his scheme, Kurusu used this information to place a buffer between the victims and both the State Department and FSISD.