A 28-year-old Indian national was sentenced to 5 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release for participating in several scams involving call centers and defrauding victims of over USD 377,000.
Safder Iqbal was also ordered to pay over USD 377,800 in restitution to the victims, United States Attorney Jason Dunn said.
Iqbal was remanded into custody immediately after the sentencing hearing.
According to court records, Iqbal travelled to the United States from India in April 2018 to work at a hotel in Colorado Springs through the J-1 visa programme. Iqbal then implemented a number of different scams.
The court records show that even before coming to the US, Iqbal was involved in various India-based fraud schemes.
He had previously worked as a call center agent working to defraud victims in the US and around the world, including in the UK, Canada, Australia and South Africa.
He had also served as a "broker" helping to connect the India-based owners of scam call centers with receivers who could accept money from victims in their native countries.
At one point, he used proceeds of the scheme to run his own call center in India.
Once in the US, Iqbal's first scam involved call centers where he and others falsely notified victims that they had erroneously received, or would receive, a refund for computer tech-support services.
Prosecutors said victims were called by India-based call center agents who claimed to work for tech support companies. In many instances, the victims were persuaded to allow the agents to access their computer via remote access software.
Once inside the computer, the agents collected information about the victims' bank accounts, accessed victim bank accounts online, and generated statements falsely claiming the victims had received a deposit when, in fact, they had not.
Iqbal also took money from another out-of-state victim who was defrauded of USD 50,000 through a combination of the refund scam and another scam involving tech support, in which victims were made to believe that they had a serious computer problem.
Sometimes these victims would encounter a "pop up" on their computer while browsing the internet. These pop ups would falsely tell the victim that there was a problem with their computer and would provide a number for tech support.
Calls to that number would be answered by an India-based scheme participant. These agents would then offer to diagnose the problem and persuade the victim to provide access to the victim's computer through remote access software. Once inside the victim's computer, the agents would use simple commands to make it appear that there was a problem with the computer when, in fact, there was not. The agents would then ask for money to perform tech support services.
Victims of both the refund and tech support scams were directed to pay the participants of the scheme using a variety of means. Some were persuaded to purchase gift cards at retail stores and then provide the gift card number directly to the calling agents.
Others were told to use a money transfer service to send the money to "receivers", including Iqbal, with established bank accounts in the United States and elsewhere.
Members of the scheme also simply commandeered the victims' computer, accessed their bank accounts using the internet, and used the illicit access to transfer money. It is estimated that the defendant and others took over USD 377,000 from their victims.
"Stealing from the elderly and vulnerable is a crime that can threaten the victim''s ability to pay their most basic living expenses," Dunn said. "Prison is an appropriate place for those like this defendant who come to this country for no other reason than to scam people."