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October 24, 2018

Fifteen Individuals and Five Call Centers Indicted in IRS Impersonation Scam

On September 4, 2018, in the Northern District of Georgia, 15 individuals and five India-based call centers were indicted for their roles in a scheme involving the impersonation of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees. TIGTA special agents arrested seven of the individuals on September 6, 2018.

According to the indictment, from at least 2013 through May 2018, the defendants knowingly and willfully conspired to devise a scheme to unjustly enrich themselves and others by fraudulently inducing U.S.-based victims to pay purported taxes, fines, and fees.

As part of the scheme, call centers primarily located in and around Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, were involved in extorting money from victims in the United States, often by purporting to be U.S. Government officials, such as IRS employees. The conspirators contacted victims by telephone, using "Lead Lists," which contained potential victims' Personally Identifiable Information. In one scenario, callers would threaten to arrest victims if they did not pay alleged tax debts. The conspirators also engaged in a scheme in which they misled victims to believe that they were eligible for fictitious Government grants if they paid the IRS taxes or processing fees upfront. The conspirators also engaged in a scheme to defraud U.S. residents by pretending to be loan officers or persons associated with lending institutions and leading the victims to believe that they were eligible for fictitious "payday loans" if they paid upfront fees. The callers also left voicemail messages in an attempt to entice callbacks from potential victims, threatening "enforcement action" if the victims did not immediately return the calls.

The conspirators used multiple scripts for the schemes, outlining what to say to each victim contacted. The scripts included fraudulent names of IRS employees, Internal Revenue Code sections, and victim rebuttal scenarios.

Victims were instructed to go to banks or ATMs to withdraw money and purchase prepaid stored value cards from retail stores. They were then told to provide the unique serial number of each prepaid card to the scammers. Some victims were directed to wire scammed funds through money service businesses such as MoneyGram and Western Union. U.S.-based conspirators retrieved the scammed funds from locations in Georgia and elsewhere, using both authentic and fraudulent personal identification documents, and subsequently deposited the funds into designated bank accounts.

The defendants could each face a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years' imprisonment.

    Source:  The facts in this case narrative come from the following publicly available documents: N.D. Ga. Indict. filed Sept. 4, 2018; N.D. Ga. Executed Arrest Warrants filed Sept. 10, 2018; N.D. Ga. Crim. Docket as of Sept. 12, 2018.