By Miriam Raftery
September 9, 2018 (Atlanta) – An indictment unsealed Friday by the U.S. Attorneys’ office in Atlanta reveals that charges have been filed against five call centers in India and 15 individuals, including seven arrested in the U.S., for an IRS phone scam targeting U.S. taxpayers.
The transnational crime ring victimized over 2,000 Americans who lost $5.5 million to the scam, in which callers impersonated Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees threatened taxpayers with fines or imprisonment unless they paid taxes and penalties.
If victims agreed to pay, they were directed by the call centers to co-conspirators such as payday lenders, who in turn would launder extorted funds through prepaid debit cards or wire transfers.
“IRS and payday loan phone schemes seek to profit by exploiting United States citizens, including the most vulnerable members of our community,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. He says the indictment and arrests “demonstrate our commitment to identifying and prosecuting those who hide behind these types of phone scams.”
“This indictment makes clear that the IRS impersonation scam has risen to a new level, with indictments against five call centers and seven co-conspirators in India who allegedly directed their employees to participate in the scam,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
“I wish to congratulate my investigative team, who labored many long hours to untangle the intricate web of financial transactions that the defendants allegedly completed as part of a transnational conspiracy to extort money from taxpayers and conceal and disguise the proceeds of their unlawful activities,” he says.
Since 2013, the IRS impersonation scam has claimed more than 14,000 victims who have lost upwards of $71 million to the scammers, the Inspector General noted, adding that his agency will be “just as relentless in our pursuit of individuals who fraudulently represent themselves as IRS officials in order to extort money from taxpayers.”
The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.