|

Federal officials sentenced 24 people involved in an India-based call center scam with several receiving deportation orders Friday.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) reported 21 people were sentenced for as much as 20 years of prison Friday for defrauding U.S. residents of hundreds of millions of dollars between 2012 and 2016. Another three were sentenced earlier in the year for targeting U.S. residents through telephone fraud schemes from India-based call centers.

After facing their individual prison sentences, 10 of the 24 conspirators were recommended or under judicial order to be deported back to India and one must revoke his U.S. citizenship.

The conspirators often impersonated Internal Revenue Services or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials “in a ruse” to carry through with the fraud and money laundering schemes. They threatened elderly, legal immigrants, and many others with arrest, prison, fines, or deportation if the alleged payments were not made to the government, according to the DOJ.

Those who followed the scammers’ orders were generally asked to provide payments by buying stored value cards or by wiring money. The call centers would then rely on a network of U.S. based runners to quickly “liquidate and launder the extorted funds” by “purchasing reloadable cards or retrieving wire transfers.”

The India-based co-conspirators then loaded the cards with payments from the victims by registering the cards under the stolen personal identities of the U.S. citizens. Runners earned a percentage of the scamming funds for their services.

“The stiff sentences imposed this week represent the culmination of the first-ever large scale, multi-jurisdiction prosecution targeting the India call center scam industry,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in the DOJ press release.  “This case represents one of the most significant victories to date in our continuing efforts to combat elder fraud and the victimization of the most vulnerable members of the U.S. public.”

Identified victims will receive $8,970,396 in a joint and severally liable restitution by 22 of the defendants. Two other defendants were required to pay $128,006.26 and $76,314.38 in restitution. (RELATED: Sessions Announces Charges For 601 People In Largest Health Care Fraud Bust In History)

“Additionally, the court entered individual preliminary orders of forfeiture against 21 defendants for assets that were seized in the case, and money judgments totaling over $72,942,300,” the DOJ press release reported.