A federal grand jury in Sacramento, Calif. on Thursday charged an individual with 21 counts of wire fraud and mail fraud for an illegal debt collection scheme.
Kirit Patel, 68, of Tracy, Calif., participated in a scheme that involved harassing and coercing victims into paying online payday loans that did not exist, according to the indictment in U.S. District Court, Eastern California.
Patel had established a front company called Broadway Global Masters that was used to process the payments after victims provided credit card information to avoid arrest, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner stated in a news release.
According to the indictment, the scheme involved more than two million phone calls that resulted in fraudulent transactions totaling more than $5 million. Authorities claim Patel had sent emails, wire transfers and mail to the victims on 21 occasions between January 2011 and March 2012. Other members of the scheme, operating from call centers in India, would impersonate law enforcement officers and claim that arrest warrants had been issued for the victims or that U.S. agencies were pursuing them for failure to pay.
Patel faces the possibility of 20 years in prison for each of the 21 count of wire fraud or mail fraud, a $250,000 fine, or a combination of both. A civil lawsuit was filed in April by the Federal Trade Commission against Patel that alleges he had committed violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
DBA International, the largest association representing the debt-buying industry, announced days after that lawsuit was filed that it supported the FTC's enforcement actions.