…vaishyas, or traders, who were once employed to calculate the tithes that were owed to medieval kings by farmers in Gujarat, an Indian state on the Arabian Sea, where their origins lie. Most Indians believe that these people have commerce in their blood. And the Patels themselves seem to believe it, too.A Patel Motel Cartel? New York Times Magazine, July 4, 1999]
But serious research also needs to be done to see if the Patels have criminality in their blood. Almost every time I look through law enforcement records for the latest Indian American rip-off, it’s a Patel.Recently, two unrelated individuals of that name living in Philadelphia have been charged by the Feds with a massive scam, involving foreign Indian co-conspirators and $5.8 million stolen via reloadable debit cards.According to the United States Attorney’s Office press release (which opens with the words “Two Philadelphia men”):
From September 2013 through March 2014, Alpeshkumar Patel and Vijaykumar Patel were part of a conspiracy to steal money using reloadable debit cards. First, the conspirators—some of whom were located in India—contacted victims by phone and used threats or deceit to induce them to put money on MoneyPak cards, which were used along with assigned PIN codes to add funds to Green Dot Cards. The conspirators then used the reloadable cards to purchase money orders that were deposited into bank accounts. All the steps were taken quickly so law enforcement and victims could not be identify or the conspirators or prevent or reverse the fraudulent transfers.[Two Charged in $5.8 Million Reloadable Debit Card Extortion Scam, October 28, 2014]
The Patels used bomb threats and other communications to frighten convenience store owners to make the transfers.If convicted of the charges, the Patels face a possible 20 year confinement and a fine in excess of $250,000.This case, which has not yet gone to trial, highlights two interesting aspects of immigrant chicanery.
First, the huge number of immigrants we harbor drives the growth of difficult-to trace money transfer systems like Green Dot Card and MoneyPak. Illegals/ aliens living among us remit millions of dollars overseas every year using these cards.
Card purveyors always insist that these cards cannot be used to money-launder because they have a maximum amounts of $500.00 per transaction. But thanks to the industrious Patels we see that it is possible to rake in over 5 million bucks at $500 a pop.This isn’t just my opinion. According to the official complaint:
Regarding the use of MoneyPak. The Patels used MoneyPak “because MoneyPaks could be purchased anonymously, they are favored by individuals engaged in criminal conduct.” [PDF]
Another aspect is the content of the following intercepted phone call. From the complaint:
In addition, law enforcement observed on one of defendant ALPESHKUMAR PATEL’S cellular telephones a series of communications on January 23, 2014, in which defendant ALPESHKUMAR PATEL and an individual I believe to be located in India are discussing what I believe is defendant ALPESHKUMAR PATEL’s criminal activity in the United States. During the discussion, the two individuals talk about how much money defendant ALPESHKUMAR PATEL is making. The two individuals also discuss what could happen to defendant ALPESHKUMAR PATEL if his criminal activities are discovered. The other individual tells defendant ALPESHKUMAR PATEL that a student doing similar activity will be sent to India [by this I believe the individual meant deported—TM] if the student is caught.
Further investigation is needed to verify this. Are Indian student scammers more likely to be deported rather than face punishment? What are the security implications of admitting thousands of Indian students who believe that the worst they face for looting America is a plane ride home?But even Patels are not safe from Patels. Indians ripping off other Indians, claiming to be American IRS or ICE agents, are raking in fortunes by demanding immediate payment of “fines”—via, you guessed it, GreenDot money cards.Here’s how it works. According to Lisa Amin Gulezian of ABC7News San Francisco:
Indian-Americans with one last name targeted in scamThursday, June 13, 2013“PLEASANT HILL, Calif. If you have a certain last name, Listen-up. Thieves posing as IRS agents are calling with a threat: either pay up or get arrested. ABC7 News spoke with one East Bay couple who got taken for $16,000 just because they had the last name Patel. But since this con game started, alerts like these are going out to Indian families all over the country.”“It began with a phone call from this number 1-848-480-6577 from Toms River NJ. A person claiming to be from the IRS told the victim he and his wife failed to pay enough taxes. When the victim said he didn’t understand, another man who spoke his native language—Gujarati – got on the phone.” [More]
What followed next was all too predictable. The victims were directed to pay their mystery fines via GreenDot loadable cards. And so the money flew electronically into the scammer’s pockets.Reports of this Indian-on-Indian predation using loadable money cards have cropped up from New Jersey, Missouri and Connecticut.A similar scam is the Government Grant Scam.[ If the U.S. Government Grants Department calls you, hang up quickly. It’s a scam, By John Kelly, Washington Post, October 6, 2013] I have personal experience with this one.An Indian called me purporting to be from the “US Government Grants Department.” As a former government research analyst, I knew no such department exists. The barely-intelligible Indian voice on the other end of the line insisted that he was from the government and wanted to help me.It was fun for the first few calls to tie the little thief in knots trying to explain what division of the US Government Grants Department he was calling from. I also asked if he had ever met Oprah Winfrey, the Director of the Office of Grants. Then I acquainted him with some choice Anglo Saxon expressions at a volume sure to melt his earwax.They/he kept calling. I resorted to using my old police whistle. Finally, the calls tapered off, then ceased.These primitive calls could only be effective where the recipient was very naïve or mentally challenged. It was clear that the elderly and the simpleminded were the prime target.This is what happens when we let acquisitive aliens from low-trust cultures settle among us. We invent non-bank methods of money transfer in order to let Latino illegals export their wages. Hiding transactions from view has always been a criminal trait, so it was only a matter of time until Indian thieves found the cards useful in stealing from all the rest of us.India is a famously corrupt place. It is not a place where strangers can be trusted or the government be relied upon. Chiseling is expected. Paying taxes to the state (which is itself a thief) is seen as foolish.It is never reported in any of the Main Stream Media stories why Indian Americans themselves fell for these schemes. Could it be that they have never been entirely honest in the first place? Why were they so afraid to seek out the real authorities? Perhaps being shaken down by the government is what they expect. Not telling the government the truth is what they do.And if that is what they expect, what can we expect from them in return?People like this can be counted on to exploit weaknesses in our high-trust society. And so we become low-trust ourselves.When we infest ourselves with manipulating tricksters from the other side of the world we have to start to become more like them in order to cope. We become less open, less trusting in our own defense. Our elderly are harassed by telephone tricksters. Our business relationships decline into mutually-assured suspicion. We pay more in insurance to cover from their predations. We fear strangers.All because we are too Politically Correct to look out for ourselves.Thomas O. Meehan (email him) is a free-lance writer and former government Senior Research Analyst and law enforcement official. A refugee from the People’s Republic of New Jersey, he now lives in Bucks County PA. He blogs fromOdysseus On The Rocks.