Two Indian nationals have been sentenced to 41 months in prison for their involvement in a nefarious robocall scam, defrauding elderly Americans of an estimated $1.2 million. The announcement was made by the district of New Jersey’s attorney’s office on Tuesday.
Plead Guilty and Sentenced
The individuals, Arushobike Mitra and Garbita Mitra, unrelated but sharing a coincidental last name, had previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The sentencing took place in Newark federal court, where they were handed down the prison terms.
Apart from serving time, both Mitras have been ordered to pay a significant restitution amounting to $835,324 and undergo three years of supervised release.
The Scam Operation
The duo, residing in the United States, were part of a larger network that operated out of India-based call centers. Their modus operandi involved using automated robocalls to target US residents, particularly focusing on the elderly. Once contact was established, criminal cohorts would employ various deceptive tactics to coerce victims into sending large sums of cash through physical shipments or wire transfers to members of the network.
Some of the devious methods employed included impersonating government officials from law enforcement or agencies like the Social Security Administration. The scammers would threaten legal or financial consequences if the victim did not comply with their demands. Additionally, they would pose as tech support to gain remote access to victims’ computers and bank accounts.
The Mitras’ Role
The Mitra pair served as money mules, a term denoting individuals who would pick up and transfer cash shipments for a share of the ill-gotten gains. Operating in Florida and New Jersey, they had allegedly opened bank accounts in both states between May and November 2019 to receive illicit payments. The court identified a total of 48 victims who had transferred varying amounts, ranging from $9,500 to $50,000 each, to contribute to the staggering $1.2 million total.
In a broader context, efforts to combat robocalls and robotexts have been ongoing. According to call blocking firm Robokiller, the number of robocalls received by Americans has shown a declining trend, dropping from an estimated 7.46 billion in October 2022 to 5.67 billion last month.
However, the decline in nuisance calls doesn’t translate to a reduction in losses. Despite the decrease in robocalls, Robokiller predicts that losses from scam robocalls for the year 2023 are likely to approximate the value recorded in 2022, which was a staggering $65 billion.
This case serves as a stark reminder of the persistent challenges posed by scams, urging continued vigilance and collaborative efforts to protect vulnerable individuals from falling prey to such malicious schemes.
The sentencing of the two Indian nationals is a welcome step in the fight against robocall scams. However, it is essential to remain vigilant and educate the public about these scams to protect people from being victimized.
Here are some tips to avoid falling prey to robocall scams:
- Never give out personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account details, to someone who calls you unexpectedly.
- Be wary of anyone who asks you to pay money upfront, especially via wire transfer or prepaid debit card.
- If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from a government agency or financial institution, hang up and call the agency or institution directly using a known phone number.
- Report robocalls to the law enforcement agencies.
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