The large scale crime has led to at least one death.
BEAUMONT, Texas — Federal agencies believe a large criminal operation based in India is targeting and stealing money from elderly Texans. This large scale crime has resulted in at least one death.
Aakash Kalpesh Gandhi pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and will spend the next four years and three months in federal prison. A judge also ordered that Gandhi pay restitution to his victims.
U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston said Gandhi was operating out of Washington and stealing from the elderly in east and Southeast Texas.
“Our greatest generation is constantly being attacked by phone and computer scammers,” Featherston said. “These crooks have no morals. When you take advantage of the elderly, you are steeping to the lowest of the low.”
While law enforcement agencies feel the arrest was a big one, Featherston believes Gandhi is just the tail of a big snake.
“This is a billion dollar industry in the elder fraud scamming world,” Featherston said,
Featherston said the 19 victims Gandhi dealt with directly lost more than $800,000, and one died.
“Of those 19 victims, one lost over $400,000, suffered mental and physical injuries because of it, and later succumbed and died from those injuries,” Featherston said.
Prosecutors believe call centers in India would call Americans and tell them they owed money to the IRS or social security. Scammers claimed their victims would suffer financially or face charges if they did not send money.
To make the scheme more believable, Gandhi’s co-conspirators would lie and claim to be government agents. Gandhi would then pick up the cash and forward it to India.
“No government agency will threaten you with jail over the phone and then demand cash be wrapped in foil and mailed,” Featherston said. “Scoundrels like Gandhi take advantage of our senior citizens.”
Featherston said even younger generations are falling prey to the crime. Officials are warning that people need to be aware of fraud and watch out for their neighbors.
“It’s a lot easier to prevent someone being a victim than it is to recover money after someone’s been a victim, because most of these organizations operate from outside of the country and inside of the country,” Featherston said.
Officials believe one of the best ways to prevent this type of scam is to share the message.
“We ask the media’s help, the public’s help, to watch out for their elderly neighbors,” Featherston said. “If you see an elderly neighbor withdrawing lots of cash say something. Ask them, why are you doing that?”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has spent time visiting with elderly people to talk to them about the dangers of fraud and scams. Officials are encouraging others to do the same.
“Talk to your other neighbors,” Featherston said. “Talk to your friends. Talk to your family. Tell them about this because it’s likely a scam, and they’re being taken advantage of.”
A person who is not sure if a call or email they received is scam is encouraged to either call someone they trust or area law enforcement for confirmation.
“Gandhi’s scam would have been thwarted if a victim would have simply googled ‘social security phone scams,’ and the very quick search result would show the phone call was a scam,” Featherston said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said organizations can reach out, and they will send representatives to come share more information.
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