Young and Wicked

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Binary data with the word IDENTITY appears in the shadow of a hand. Concept for digital crime. Blue toned image.

Elderly people are one of the most common demographics targeted by fraudsters because they are seen as more vulnerable and easier to exploit. Fraudsters typically use scare tactics to convince elderly individuals to trust them with their personal information and money.

A Minnesota couple has been sentenced for their roles in an international fraud ring that defrauded elderly people across the country. Chirag Janakbhai Choksi and his wife, Shachi Naishadh Majmudar pleaded guilty in July to charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Choksi also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft.

An additional 10 people have been charged for their role in the scheme which involved fraudsters impersonating law enforcement officials and victimizing elderly people. This international fraud scheme also involved call centers based out of India.

The call center targeted victims through robocalls claiming they had a legal problem and needed to act immediately. These robocalls also threatened recipients with “drastic consequences” if they did not meet the demands of the caller.

Recipients of the robocall would follow the instructions listed in the call and be transferred to a person who would then continue the scheme. These individuals were known as ‘closers.’ They were in charge of using different scripts to scam their victims,

These fraudsters most commonly impersonated law enforcement officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Social Security Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service. The closers convinced the victims into wiring money and sending packages full of money to save themselves from legal repercussions.

One woman from Chesterfield County, Va., was defrauded out of $400,000. Closers convinced her to send eight FedEx packages full of cash or gift cards to other states thinking she was following the directions of a DEA agent. She mailed packages to addresses in California, New Jersey, Indiana, Texas, Illinois, and Minnesota.

This victim was under the impression a vehicle had been stopped near the Mexican border and contained her bank information and cocaine. She mailed half of the money she had in her bank account as she was told this was the only way to clear her name of any criminal activity until an investigation could be concluded. (How about getting a lawyer first?)

The victim told agents that the fraudsters falsely claimed her money would be returned to her at the end of an investigation into her involvement in the criminal activity.  She disclosed to investigators that she sent cash or gift cards totaling more than $400,000 to various addresses across five states. (This is such an egregious scam.)

One of the addresses the Chesterfield woman sent money to was the home of Choksi and Majmudar. They admitted that they were “money mules” in the operation. They were responsible for picking up packages of cash that were mailed to them. Using assumed identities, they would deposit the money into various bank accounts.

The Federal Trade Commission received nearly 400,000 complaints alleging imposter fraud in 2019 alone. The estimated fraud claims total over $152.9 million, but government officials believe it is much larger than this as elderly victims often do not report their total losses.

Several dozen individuals have been identified as being victimized by this scheme. Most were more than 60 years old. Investigators expect that only a fraction of the total number of victims have been identified, given the size of the conspiracy and the number of money mules in different states across the country.

Choksi and Majmudar were sentenced to 6½ years and 14 months, respectively.  The couple have been locked up since their arrest and will be transferred to a federal jail. The FBI will continue to investigate the conspiracy and urges anyone who has been victimized or has been involved in the fraud to come forward. You can contact your local FBI office or closest international office 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Couple sentenced in international fraud that victimized seniors, including Chesterfield resident,” published by Richmond Times-Dispatch on November 6, 2020.

Two members of an international fraud ring that victimized elderly people across the U.S., including a retired Chesterfield County resident who lost $400,000, were sentenced in federal court Friday.

Chirag Janakbhai Choksi and his wife, Shachi Naishadh Majmudar, both of Minnesota, were sentenced to 6½ years and 14 months, respectively. They pleaded guilty in July in federal court in Richmond to charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and Choksi also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft.

 

 

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.