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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 19, 2019

Indian National Extradited to United States to Face Charges for Leadership Role in Multimillion Dollar India-Based Call Center Scam Targeting U.S. Victims

An Indian national has been extradited to the United States from Singapore to face charges related to his role as an operator of a call center network that targeted U.S victims.  The massive India-based telephone impersonation fraud and money laundering conspiracy defrauded thousands of U.S. residents out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas, Executive Associate Director Derek N. Benner of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Inspector General J. Russell George of the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and Acting Inspector General John Kelly of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) made the announcement today.


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Hitesh Madhubhai Patel, 42, of Ahmedabad, India, arrived in the United States and is scheduled to be arraigned today before a U.S. magistrate judge in federal court in Houston, Texas.  The indictment, which was unsealed in October 2016, charged Patel and 60 other individuals and entities with general conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.  The case is assigned to the Honorable David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas.

“Hitesh Patel operated a call center that allegedly preyed upon vulnerable U.S. citizens as part of a massive fraud scheme,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.  “This extradition once again demonstrates the Department’s unwavering commitment to disrupt and dismantle the India-based call center scam industry and to work with our foreign partners to hold accountable those who perpetrate schemes that defraud our citizens.  I especially would like to thank our Singaporean colleagues for their excellent cooperation with this extradition and their commitment to combatting transnational organized crime.”

“I cannot compliment enough the hard work and effort put into this case by the agents, analysts and attorneys of the many agencies involved,” said U.S. Attorney Patrick.  “Large complex international cases like these often take years to bring in foreign-based defendants.  I applaud our global partners in helping bring this case closer to a conclusion.”



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“Today’s extradition should serve as a strong deterrent to anyone considering taking part in similar scams, and I hope it provides a sense of justice for the victims as well,” said HSI Executive Associate Director Benner.  “HSI will continue to utilize its unique investigative mandate, in conjunction with our local, state and federal partners, to attack and dismantle the criminal enterprises who would seek to manipulate U.S. institutions and taxpayers.”

“Since 2013, the IRS impersonation scam has been on a relentless path, claiming more than 15,000 victims who have collectively suffered over $75 million in losses,” said Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George.  “TIGTA’s investigations, often conducted with other Federal agencies, have identified 140 scammers, including Patel, who have preyed upon taxpayers.  Today’s extradition and arraignment are proof that TIGTA and its law enforcement partners will be equally relentless in rooting out individuals who fraudulently identify themselves as IRS employees in order to extort money from taxpayers.  We especially appreciate the cooperation of the Government of Singapore for its role in the extradition.”


    
   
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“This historic extradition should serve as notice to transnational criminal organizations of the lengths DHS is willing to go to arrest those who would enrich themselves by extorting the most vulnerable in our society,” said Special Agent in Charge David Green of DHS-OIG Houston, Texas Field Office.  “The owners, managers and employees of overseas call centers who target U.S. residents should know that our pursuit of justice for victims of their scams does not stop at the water’s edge.  We will continue to work with our international partners to identify these fraudsters, track them down and hold them accountable for their crimes.”

Singapore authorities apprehended Patel at the request of the United States pursuant to a provisional arrest warrant on Sept. 21, 2018, after flying from India to Singapore.  The Singaporean Minister for Law issued a warrant on March 25, 2019 for Patel to be delivered into custody of the United States.


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The indictment alleges that Patel operated the HGlobal call center conglomerate and participated in a complex fraudulent scheme involving a network of call centers based in Ahmedabad, India.  Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, India-based conspirators allegedly called potential victims while impersonating officials from the IRS or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  According to the indictment, the call center conspirators then threatened victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay taxes or penalties to the government.  When victims agreed to pay, the call centers used a network of U.S.-based conspirators to quickly liquidate and launder the extorted funds through the use of stored value cards or via wire transfers.  As alleged in the indictment, the stored value cards were often registered by the scammers using misappropriated personal identifying information of thousands of identity theft victims, and conspirators collected the wire transfers by using fake names and fraudulent identifications.

According to the indictment, the call center conspirators also defrauded victims through other schemes, including via offering fake short-term loans or grants.  The indictment alleges that the conspirators would then request a good-faith deposit to show the victims’ ability to pay back the loan or a fee to process the grant.  The victims of the alleged scam never received any money after making the requested payment.


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An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. 

A total of 24 domestic defendants associated with this transnational criminal scheme have previously been convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment of up to 20 years in the Southern District of Texas, District of Arizona and Northern District of Georgia.  The defendants were also ordered to pay millions of dollars in victim restitution and money judgments and to forfeit seized assets.  Some defendants were ordered to be deported based on their illegal immigration status, with another defendant having his U.S. citizenship revoked due to a separate conviction for immigration fraud.  The remaining India-based defendants have yet to be arraigned in this case.

HSI, DHS-OIG and TIGTA conducted the investigation.  The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and HSI Singapore provided significant support in securing and coordinating Patel’s arrest and extradition, working in concert with their counterparts at the Singapore Attorney General’s-Chambers and the Singapore Police Force. 


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Trial Attorneys Michael Sheckels and Mona Sahaf of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, Amanda Wick of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark McIntyre and Craig Feazel of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case.

A Department of Justice website has been established to provide information about the case to victims and the public.  Anyone who believes they may be a victim of fraud or identity theft in relation to this investigation or other telefraud scam phone calls may contact the FTC via this website.

Anyone seeking additional information about telefraud scams generally, or preventing identity theft or fraudulent use of their identity information, may find helpful information on the IRS tax scams website, the FTC phone scamwebsite, and the FTC identity theft website.










Attorney General William P. Barr Delivers Remarks on the Release of the Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election
WashingtonDC
 ~ 
Thursday, April 18, 2019

Good Morning.  Thank you all for being here today.

On March 22, 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded his investigation of matters related to Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and submitted his confidential report to me pursuant to Department of Justice regulations. 

As I said during my Senate confirmation hearing and since, I am committed to ensuring the greatest possible degree of transparency concerning the Special Counsel’s investigation, consistent with the law.

At 11:00 this morning, I will transmit copies of a public version of the Special Counsel’s report to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.  The Department of Justice will also make the report available to the American public by posting it on the Department’s website after it has been delivered to Congress.

I would like to offer a few comments today on the report. 

But before I do that, I want to thank Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for joining me here today and for his assistance and counsel throughout this process.  Rod has served the Department of Justice for many years with dedication and distinction, and it has been a great privilege and pleasure to work with him since my confirmation.  He had well-deserved plans to step back from public service that I interrupted by asking him to help in my transition.  Rod has been an invaluable partner, and I am grateful that he was willing to help me and has been able to see the Special Counsel’s investigation to its conclusion.  Thank you, Rod.

I would also like to thank Special Counsel Mueller for his service and the thoroughness of his investigation, particularly his work exposing the nature of Russia’s attempts to interfere in our electoral process. 

As you know, one of the primary purposes of the Special Counsel’s investigation was to determine whether members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, or any individuals associated with that campaign, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.  Volume I of the Special Counsel’s report describes the results of that investigation.  As you will see, the Special Counsel’s report states that his “investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” 

I am sure that all Americans share my concerns about the efforts of the Russian government to interfere in our presidential election.  As the Special Counsel’s report makes clear, the Russian government sought to interfere in our election.  But thanks to the Special Counsel’s thorough investigation, we now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign – or the knowing assistance of any other Americans for that matter.  That is something that all Americans can and should be grateful to have confirmed. 

The Special Counsel’s report outlines two main efforts by the Russian government to influence the 2016 election:

First, the report details efforts by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with close ties to the Russian government, to sow social discord among American voters through disinformation and social media operations.  Following a thorough investigation of this disinformation campaign, the Special Counsel brought charges in federal court against several Russian nationals and entities for their respective roles in this scheme.  Those charges remain pending, and the individual defendants remain at large.

But the Special Counsel found no evidence that any Americans – including anyone associated with the Trump campaign – conspired or coordinated with the Russian government or the IRA in carrying out this illegal scheme.  Indeed, as the report states, “[t]he investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation.”  Put another way, the Special Counsel found no “collusion” by any Americans in the IRA’s illegal activity.

Second, the report details efforts by Russian military officials associated with the GRU to hack into computers and steal documents and emails from individuals affiliated with the Democratic Party and the presidential campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton for the purpose of eventually publicizing those emails.  Obtaining such unauthorized access into computers is a federal crime.  Following a thorough investigation of these hacking operations, the Special Counsel brought charges in federal court against several Russian military officers for their respective roles in these illegal hacking activities.  Those charges are still pending and the defendants remain at large.

But again, the Special Counsel’s report did not find any evidence that members of the Trump campaign or anyone associated with the campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its hacking operations.  In other words, there was no evidence of Trump campaign “collusion” with the Russian government’s hacking. 

The Special Counsel’s investigation also examined Russian efforts to publish stolen emails and documents on the internet.  The Special Counsel found that, after the GRU disseminated some of the stolen materials through its own controlled entities, DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, the GRU transferred some of the stolen materials to Wikileaks for publication.  Wikileaks then made a series of document dumps.  The Special Counsel also investigated whether any member or affiliate of the Trump campaign encouraged or otherwise played a role in these dissemination efforts.  Under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy.  Here too, the Special Counsel’s report did not find that any person associated with the Trump campaign illegally participated in the dissemination of the materials.

Finally, the Special Counsel investigated a number of “links” or “contacts” between Trump Campaign officials and individuals connected with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign.  After reviewing those contacts, the Special Counsel did not find any conspiracy to violate U.S. law involving Russia-linked persons and any persons associated with the Trump campaign.

So that is the bottom line.  After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and witness interviews, the Special Counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes. 

After finding no underlying collusion with Russia, the Special Counsel’s report goes on to consider whether certain actions of the President could amount to obstruction of the Special Counsel’s investigation.  As I addressed in my March 24th letter, the Special Counsel did not make a traditional prosecutorial judgment regarding this allegation.  Instead, the report recounts ten episodes involving the President and discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense. 

After carefully reviewing the facts and legal theories outlined in the report, and in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel and other Department lawyers, the Deputy Attorney General and I concluded that the evidence developed by the Special Counsel is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. 

Although the Deputy Attorney General and I disagreed with some of the Special Counsel’s legal theories and felt that some of the episodes examined did not amount to obstruction as a matter of law, we did not rely solely on that in making our decision.  Instead, we accepted the Special Counsel’s legal framework for purposes of our analysis and evaluated the evidence as presented by the Special Counsel in reaching our conclusion. 

In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context.  President Trump faced an unprecedented situation.  As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates.  At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability.  Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion.  And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.  Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims.  And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.

Now, before I take questions, I want to address a few aspects of the process for producing the public report that I am releasing today.  As I said several times, the report contains limited redactions relating to four categories of information.  To ensure as much transparency as possible, these redactions have been clearly labelled and color-coded so that readers can tell which redactions correspond to which categories.

As you will see, most of the redactions were compelled by the need to prevent harm to ongoing matters and to comply with court orders prohibiting the public disclosure of information bearing upon ongoing investigations and criminal cases, such as the IRA case and the Roger Stone case.

These redactions were applied by Department of Justice attorneys working closely together with attorneys from the Special Counsel’s Office, as well as with the intelligence community, and prosecutors who are handling ongoing cases.  The redactions are their work product.   

Consistent with long-standing Executive Branch practice, the decision whether to assert Executive privilege over any portion of the report rested with the President of the United States.  Because the White House voluntarily cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, significant portions of the report contain material over which the President could have asserted privilege.  And he would have been well within his rights to do so.  Following my March 29th letter, the Office of the White House Counsel requested the opportunity to review the redacted version of the report in order to advise the President on the potential invocation of privilege, which is consistent with long-standing practice.  Following that review, the President confirmed that, in the interests of transparency and full disclosure to the American people, he would not assert privilege over the Special Counsel’s report.  Accordingly, the public report I am releasing today contains redactions only for the four categories that I previously outlined, and no material has been redacted based on executive privilege. 

In addition, earlier this week, the President’s personal counsel requested and were given the opportunity to read a final version of the redacted report before it was publicly released.  That request was consistent with the practice followed under the Ethics in Government Act, which permitted individuals named in a report prepared by an Independent Counsel the opportunity to read the report before publication.  The President’s personal lawyers were not permitted to make, and did not request, any redactions. 

In addition to making the redacted report public, we are also committed to working with Congress to accommodate their legitimate oversight interests with respect to the Special Counsel’s investigation.  We have been consulting with Chairman Graham and Chairman Nadler throughout this process, and we will continue to do so. 

Given the limited nature of the redactions, I believe that the publicly released report will allow every American to understand the results of the Special Counsel’s investigation.  Nevertheless, in an effort to accommodate congressional requests, we will make available to a bipartisan group of leaders from several Congressional committees a version of the report with all redactions removed except those relating to grand-jury information.  Thus, these members of Congress will be able to see all of the redacted material for themselves – with the limited exception of that which, by law, cannot be shared. 

I believe that this accommodation, together with my upcoming testimony before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, will satisfy any need Congress has for information regarding the Special Counsel’s investigation.

Once again, I would like to thank you all for being here today.  I now have a few minutes for questions.









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