Federal prosecutors charged 61 individuals and entities across the world Thursday in connection to a transnational call center operation that investigators say scammed United States residents out of millions. The arrests follow a three-year joint investigation between the Department of Justice, Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), and the US Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration.
NBC Bay Area has been following these scams for years, where a caller posing as a federal agent threatens the person on the other line with arrests, lawsuits or worse, if they do not pay up.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell called Thursday’s arrests a major breakthrough.
“This is the first ever multi-jurisdictional enforcement action targeting the Indian call center scam industry,” Caldwell said.
Twenty people were arrested in eight states throughout the country. Another 32 people were busted in India, where this operation was based. Several suspects are still at large, including a man who was last seen in Oakland.
Federal agents believe the number of victims exceeds 10,000 and the amount of money lost is in the hundreds of millions.
“They laundered money using prepaid debit cards using info from id theft victims,” Caldwell said.
Even with Thursday’s crackdown, federal agents believe there are many other operations using this same telephone threatening technique to get people to send them money.
That’s why they are putting out brochures, warning everyone that federal agents will never call demanding money.