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August 22, 2018

Man Sentenced To Eight Years in Prison for Role in an IRS Impersonation Scam

On May 30, 2018, in the Southern District of Texas, Vedas Engineer was sentenced for his role in a scheme involving the impersonation of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees. Engineer and coconspirator Bhavdip Sanghavi were indicted in May 2017 for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud in connection with the scheme. Engineer pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in July 2017, and Sanghavi pled guilty in December 2017.

According to the court documents, from about June 2015 until May 2017, Engineer, Sanghavi, and others knowingly conspired to devise a scheme to defraud and to obtain money by means of false and fraudulent representations. Specifically, taxpayers received telephone calls from persons falsely representing themselves to be employees of the IRS. The callers told their victims that the victims owed money to the IRS, and then used threats and other methods of intimidation to convince the victims to pay money in order to resolve their purported tax debts immediately.

On or about May 2, 2017, a small business owner in Shreveport, Louisiana, reported that he had fallen victim to the IRS impersonation scam. Individuals claiming to be IRS employees had contacted him and directed him to send a $25,000 cashier's check via United Parcel Service (UPS) overnight mail to an address in Houston, Texas. The victim believed that the funds were to satisfy a purported tax liability and that the recipient was an IRS attorney. Agents from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) witnessed the delivery of the UPS package to the specified address and observed a male, identified as Engineer, sitting in a vehicle parked one to two houses away. Agents made contact with Engineer and he agreed to meet with TIGTA agents on May 8, 2017, with his attorney. Approximately two hours before the scheduled meeting, TIGTA received information indicating that Engineer was attempting to leave the country via a flight from Chicago's O'Hare airport for his native country of India. TIGTA agents subsequently arrested Engineer on the same date in Chicago, Illinois. Engineer's plea agreement indicated that more than $1.7 million had been wired to him and his coconspirators during the conspiracy.

Engineer was sentenced to 96 months' imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. Restitution has not yet been determined; however, an order of forfeiture was filed ordering Engineer to pay a personal money judgment in the amount of $475,000 and to forfeit a piece of real property in Houston, Texas. Sanghavi's sentencing is scheduled for July 11, 2018.

    Source:  The facts in this case narrative come from the following publicly available documents: S.D. Tex. Crim. Compl. filed May 8, 2017; S.D. Tex. Executed Arrest Warrant filed May 23, 2017; S.D. Tex. Indict. filed May 25, 2017; S.D. Tex. Plea Agr. filed July 25, 2017; S.D. Tex. Preliminary Order of Forfeiture filed Mar. 13, 2018; S.D. Tex. Order of Forfeiture at Sentencing filed May 30, 2018; S.D. Tex. Judgment filed June 4, 2018; S.D. Tex. Crim. Docket as of June 21, 2018.