LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Riverside County man was sentenced Wednesday to nine years in prison for helping collect more than $500,000 in cash conned out of elderly people by others pretending to be federal agents threatening the victims with arrest on bogus warrants.
Anuj "Mike" Patel, 32, of Lake Elsinore, picked up money mailed by victims who were told that their Social Security numbers were linked to crimes, and that warrants had been issued for their arrests. Victims were told that, to clear the warrants, they should withdraw their savings and send cash by mail to what turned out to be co-conspirators in the scheme.
Patel — who was ordered to pay $490,500 in restitution — pleaded guilty in March 2021 to one federal count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
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From April 2019 to March 2020, members of the conspiracy, some of whom are believed to be in India, telephoned victims and pretended to be government employees or law enforcement officers.
Using false pretenses — including phony badge numbers and spoofed government telephone numbers — the scheme's members convinced victims that their identities or assets were in trouble.
Those who were targeted were ordered to send parcels with cash to addresses in Riverside, Los Angeles and San Diego counties through shipping companies that allowed recipients to pick up their mail so long as they had identification matching the addressee.
Patel admitted he used tracking numbers to monitor the victims' parcels, and communicated with couriers who used fraudulent identification documents matching the names listed on the parcels as addresses. Patel also admitted to receiving or intending to receive 18 packages sent by victims.
The total loss in the case was $541,420, and Patel admitted the scheme involved at least 10 victims, many of whom he knew were vulnerable people.
Two other couriers from Lake Elsinore also pleaded guilty in the case. Elmer Barrios, 37, is scheduled to be sentenced in May. His cousin, William Barrios, 37, was sentenced last year to time already served and handed over to U.S. Marshals to be deported, court papers show.
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