Washington: An Indian college intern in the US has been sentenced to five years in prison for providing tech support to a telemarketing fraud scheme that duped about two dozen senior citizens of their retirement savings amounting to nearly a USD one million.
Bishwajeet Kumar Jha, 21, the ringleader of a group of Indian college students doing hospitality industry internships in the US, defrauded the senior citizens aged between 58 years to 93 years.
The victims were duped of their retirement savings ranging between USD 1,180 and USD 174,300, the Department of Justice said on Monday. Jha will face deportation proceedings upon the completion of his term of incarceration, it said.
Over three months, the conspiracy defrauded individuals of at least USD 937,280, according to justice department officials.
Federal prosecutors allege that the nearly two dozen victims, who believed that they had purchased technology support, were led to believe that money had been erroneously refunded to their bank accounts by the tech support company. The victims were asked to return the erroneous refund and directed to send the money to the defendant and others. Some of the victims were told to send the money overseas.
The telemarketing scam was interrupted by Newport Police on November 20, 2018, when, as part of the investigation, detectives executed a court-authorised search of the residence of Jha and the other members of the conspiracy.
During the search, police seized numerous items related to the operation of the scam.
A subsequent investigation determined that after the co-conspirators operating in Newport shared some of the proceeds of the scheme, large sums of money garnered from the scheme were transferred to a bank account in California. From there, the majority of funds were transferred internationally to India, China, and Singapore.
"The Department of Justice takes very seriously, and will advocate for the imposition of substantial criminal penalties for targeting vulnerable, especially elderly, victims through the commission of federal crimes such as this," said US Attorney Aaron L Weisman.