Two Indian Americans Plead Guilty to Extortion Scam

Two Philadelphia Indian-Americans men admitted their roles in a conspiracy to extort victims to load prepaid debit cards with funds that were stolen as part of the scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Two  today pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to extort their victims to load prepaid debit cards with funds that were stolen as part of a scam running into more than USD 5.8 million.Alpesh Kumar Patel, 31, and Vijay Kumar Patel, 40, pleaded guilty before a US District Judge in New Jersey to the charges of conspiracy to commit the wire fraud.

The conspiracy to commit wire fraud charge is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court: The duo — who are not related — admitted that from September 2013 through March 2014, they were part of a conspiracy to steal money using reloadable debit cards. First, conspirators would purchase reloadable Green Dot Cards, and register them in names other than their own. The conspirators contacted victims by phone and used threats or deceit to induce them to put money on MoneyPak cards, which are used along with assigned PIN codes to add funds to Green Dot Cards.

Both admitted that they obtained the Green Dot Cards and used them to purchase money orders. Afterwards, they deposited the funds into bank accounts associated with the scheme.

Phone numbers and IP addresses connected with the conspiracy were tied to approximately 2,500 Green Dot Cards that were funded in excess of $5.8 million.

Sentencing has been scheduled for January 15, 2015.

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U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents, detectives and investigators assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, under the direction of FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel in Newark, and FBI Special Agent in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. in Philadelphia, as well as special agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Kelly in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s pleas.