Operator of Indian Robocall Scam Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Over 5,000 U.S. Victims Out of More Than $8 Million

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – An Indian national pleaded guilty today to conspiracy and identity theft in connection with his operation of an overseas robocall scam that defrauded thousands of mostly elderly victims of at least $8 million.

According to court documents, Shehzadkhan Pathan, 39, operated a call center in Ahmedabad, India from which automated robocalls were made to victims in the United States. After establishing contact with victims through these automated calls, Pathan and other “closers” at his call center would coerce, cajole, and trick victims to send bulk cash through physical shipments and electronic money transfers. Pathan and his conspirators used a variety of schemes to convince victims to send money, including impersonating law enforcement officers from the FBI and DEA and representatives of other government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, to threaten victims with severe legal and financial consequences. Conspirators also convinced victims to send money as initial installments for falsely promised loans.

In addition to operating the call center, Pathan recruited and supervised several money mules who he directed to receive money sent by victims. Pathan’s network of money mules was located in multiple states, including but not limited to Virginia, New Jersey, Minnesota, Texas, California, South Carolina, and Illinois. Pathan assigned various aliases to these individuals and supplied them with hundreds of counterfeit identification documents to facilitate their receipt of victim cash shipments and money transfers. Pathan then directed the money mules to send the money to himself and other conspirators through various means, including cash deposits into numerous bank accounts and via informal money transmitters known as Hawalas.

Pathan’s scams disproportionately targeted elderly victims, many of whom suffered substantial financial hardship. In total, Pathan is responsible for defrauding over 5,000 U.S. victims of at least $8 million.

Pathan is scheduled to be sentenced on May 14, 2021. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the conspiracy, along with a mandatory consecutive term of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the Department of Justice. Elder abuse is an intentional or negligent act by any person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult. It is a term used to describe five subtypes of elder abuse: physical abuse, financial fraud, scams and exploitation, caregiver neglect and abandonment, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse. Elder abuse is a serious crime against some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, affecting at least 10 percent of older Americans every year. Together with our federal, state, local, and tribal partners, the Department of Justice is steadfastly committed to combatting all forms of elder abuse and financial exploitation through enforcement actions, training and resources, research, victim services, and public awareness. This holistic and robust response demonstrates the Department’s unwavering dedication to fighting for justice for older Americans.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and James A. Dawson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Criminal Division, made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson accepted the plea.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian R. Hood and Kaitlin G. Cooke are prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:19-cr-160.