ATLANTA, Ga (CW44 News At 10) – Vikas Mehta, Walter Valdivia, Pradip Parikh, Jaime Salas, Alpesh Patel and Darash Shah have been charged with conspiracy of wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy of money laundering and money laundering silver.
“This case involves an alleged scheme to defraud the victims – many of whom are elderly – out of their hard-earned savings,” said US prosecutor Kurt R. Erskine. âThis is a particularly blatant type of fraud that is becoming an all too common phenomenon. It involves dishonest individuals all over the world, including the United States, scaring good people with lies and then cheating on them with their money. “
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âThese indictments send a strong message that my office will continue to prosecute the perpetrators of these malicious Social Security scams designed to target and harm vulnerable people, including the elderly,â said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General of the Social Security Administration. . “I thank the Transnational Elder Fraud Force, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security and Inspector General of the Treasury for Criminal Investigators of the Tax Administration for their efforts. important; furthermore, I thank the many law enforcement agencies for their substantial contributions to this major investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office for pursuing this case. “
According to US Attorney Erskine, the charges and other information presented to the court: The defendants allegedly participated in a conspiracy to defraud victims in the United States, many of whom are elderly. The conspiracy began with recordings of automated calls believed to be from a government agency or with emails believed to be from legitimate businesses. Automated call records and email messages provided callback numbers. When individuals called these numbers, they were linked to suspected crooks, some of whom were in India. During these phone calls, the scammer claimed to either work for the United States government or represent a company.
When the scammer pretended to work for a government agency, he would tell the victim he was in trouble. Often times, they would pretend to be an employee of the Social Security Administration, claiming that the victim’s social security number was compromised in some way. The scammer would then tell the victim that she had to pay the money immediately, or, if he didn’t, she would be arrested. The scammer sometimes used the real names of Social Security Administration employees to appear legitimate.
In cases where the scammer claimed to work for a legitimate company, he reported that the victim was entitled to a refund from the company. The scammer often convinced the victim to download computer software which, without his knowledge, allowed him to gain remote access to the computer. From there, the scammer manipulated the victim’s bank accounts to give the impression that, when trying to reimburse the victim for his money, the scammer had “accidentally” paid back too much, and thus, the victim. victim now owed a “debt” to the company. . If the victim did not repay this perceived debt, she would face certain consequences.
After the scammer on the phone scared the victims, the scammer would teach the victim how to pay money. Sometimes the scammer asked the victim to withdraw the money, pack it in shipping boxes and deliver the package as instructed. Other times the person on the phone would tell the victim to get gift cards and provide the redemption code on the back of the card. Often the person on the phone would tell the victim to transfer money to a particular bank account; withdraw their money for cashier’s checks made payable to a specific company; or deposit money directly into a specific company’s bank account.
To carry out the alleged wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy, the named defendants – all of whom reside in the United States – allegedly set up companies with various secretaries of state offices and then opened bank accounts in the name of the United States. company. These companies, however, did little or no legitimate business. Instead, their goal was to receive and transfer funds for victims. And it was into these bank accounts that the scammer on the phone asked the victim to deposit his money.
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Once the defendants received the victims’ money, they allegedly laundered the proceeds of the fraud through their various accounts. The defendants and their companies are listed below:
- Vikas Mehta, 48, of Cliffside Park, New Jersey, started two companies: Snoopy Trust LLC and MVJ Holdings LLC.
- Walter Valdivia, 69, of Boca Raton, Florida, created Achieve Capital Group LLC and ACG Accounts Inc.
- Pradip Parikh, 63, of Valley Stream, New York, formed JDM Management Inc.
- Jaime Salas, 27, of Acworth, Ga., Formed Salas Construction LLC.
- Alpesh Patel, 37 from Louisa, Virginia, created Seven Points Agency LLC.
- Darash Shah, 22 from Boston, Massachusetts, formed Turtle Dove Holdings LLC.
The public is reminded that the indictment contains only charges. The accused are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be up to the government to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
US Assistant Prosecutor J. Elizabeth McBath is continuing this case.
The Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration (SSA OIG) is investigating the case, with assistance from: Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in Atlanta, New York, New Jersey, Florida and Virginia; US Secret Service agents in Cleveland and at headquarters; Agents of the Department of Homeland Security in Miami; and the Inspector General of the Treasury for tax officials in Chicago.
The United States Attorney’s Office and SSA-OIG would like to thank the following law enforcement agencies for their work in this case:
- Wood-Ridge Police Department (New Jersey);
- Lincoln Police Department (Lincoln, Nebraska);
- Conway Police Department (Conway, New Hampshire);
- Loveland Police Department (Loveland, Colorado);
- Stockton Police Department (Stockton, Calif.);
- Ferndale Police Department (Ferndale, Michigan);
- Maplewood City Police Department (Maplewood, Minnesota);
- Stafford County Sheriff’s Office (Stafford, Va.);
- Pennington County Sheriff’s Office (Rapid City, South Dakota);
- New York Police Department (NYPD) (New York City, New York);
- Nassau County Police Department (Garden City, New York);
- Lake County Sheriff’s Office (Tavares, Florida);
- Polk County Sheriff’s Office (Benton, Tennessee);
- Smyrna Police Department (Smyrna, Georgia);
- Conway Police Department (Conway, Arkansas);
- Polk County Sheriff’s Office (Des Moines, Iowa);
- Columbus Police Department (Columbus, Ohio);
- Cobb County Sheriff’s Office (Marietta, GA);
- North Richland Hills Police Department (North Richland, Texas); &
- New Jersey Probation Division (Bergen County, New Jersey).
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is part of the Department of Justice’s Transnational Elder Fraud Force. The Strike Force is focused on investigating and prosecuting defendants associated with fraud schemes that disproportionately affect older Americans. These include telephone scams and computer takeover scams.
The public should exercise caution with any caller claiming to be a government employee. Government agencies will never threaten you with immediate arrest or other legal action if you do not send cash, retail gift cards, prepaid debit cards, bank transfers, or internet currencies. Plus, they will never ask you for the secret to solving a debt or any other problem. If you need to send a payment to the Social Security Administration, the agency will send a letter with payment options and appeal rights. If you or someone you know is 65 or older and has been the victim of financial fraud, help is available at the National Seniors Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).
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The public is reminded that gift cards are gifts, not payments. If a stranger claiming to be a legitimate business or government agency demands payment with a gift card, hang up or ignore the message. Anyone who demands payment by gift card is a con artist. Scammers use this payment method because it is difficult to trace. Once you’ve purchased the gift card, scammers usually require the number on the back of the gift card. This number allows the crook to immediately steal the money loaded on the card. For more information, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/paying-scammers-gift-cards.