Couple sentenced

Manish Patel and Nikita Shukla have been sentenced to prison for their roles in an impersonation scheme that scammed 780 people.

The U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Gregory J. Haanstad, Dec. 18 announced that an Indian American couple, Manish Patel and Nikita Shukla, have been sentenced to prison for their roles in an impersonation scheme that scammed 780 people.

Patel and Shukla, both 26, were sentenced to prison Dec. 14, with the former receiving 38 months behind bars and the latter getting a 366-day sentence.

Additionally, Patel is to pay $1,101,901.61 and Shukla $149,531.28 in restitution for committing wire fraud, the attorney's office said in a news release.

According to the plea agreements and other court documents, unknown members of the scheme located in India called victims and made material misrepresentations to them, which caused the victims to send an electronic interstate money transfer to a specific location and to a specific, fictitious name.

The documents said that, using 134 different fraudulent identifications, Patel picked up $1,101,901.61 in fraud proceeds in 1,081 transactions, from 780 victims from Sept. 28, 2016, through May 10, 2017.

It added that Shukla aided and abetted the scheme by driving Patel to pick up $149,531.28 in fraud proceeds from 100 victims.

When the couple was arrested in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Patel and Shukla possessed 147 fraudulent driver’s licenses with fake names and Patel’s photo in them. Authorities also found $21,672 in cash in the car.

One misrepresentation that the callers made was that they were from the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and that the individuals, who are legal immigrants, had to pay for new passports or other items in order to avoid being sent to jail or deported, the documents said.

The callers made numerous other misrepresentations to the many victims of this scam, the attorney's office said.

Patel and others possessed fraudulent driver’s licenses that included the fictitious names of the MoneyGram recipients, but contained a photo of themselves. They used the fake IDs to pick up MoneyGrams throughout the country.

According to court documents, Patel frequently picked up several MoneyGrams a day from various locations using fraudulent driver’s licenses.

The attorney's office added that, for at least part of the scheme, Shukla drove Patel throughout the country, including in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

The couple were allowed to keep a certain percentage of fraud proceeds, but then deposited the remaining cash into various bank accounts or handed the cash off to unknown individuals, it said.

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