Indian national admits to role in government impersonation call center scam

HOUSTON – A 37-year-old Indian citizen who was illegally residing in Houston has entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Between April and October 2019, Waseem Maknojiya was involved in a telemarketing scheme via Indian call centers to extort money from victims in the United States. Maknojiya acted as a runner in these schemes, using aliases and fake identification documents to pick up more than 70 parcels containing cash the scheme’s victims had mailed.  

One common script used in the scheme involved coercing victims into believing federal agents were investigating them. The “agent” on the phone would convince the victim the only way to clear his or her name from investigation was to send cash in a parcel shipped through FedEx to a name and address they provided. Runners in the United States like Maknojiya would then pick up the parcels.

As part of his plea agreement, Maknojiya will pay restitution to the scheme’s identified victims.

U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes accepted the plea and set sentencing for Dec. 13. At that time, Maknojiya faces up to 20 years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. He will remain in custody pending that hearing. 

The FBI, Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG) and Department of Homeland Security – OIG conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Houston Police Department and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephanie Bauman and Eun Kate Suh are prosecuting the case.

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