Fort Myers man arrested in Homeland Security takedown

Praful J Patel / Facebook
Praful J Patel / Facebook

FORT MYERS, Fla. — A Fort Myers man was arrested Thursday morning in connection with call center scams throughout the United States and India, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement statement said.

Praful Patel, 49, of Fort Myers, played a role as a runner in the HGLOBAL call center, a statement said. Patel was responsible for buying prepaid cards, money orders and depositing fraudulent profits into various accounts, the statement said.

Homeland Security officials conducted a raid on Patel’s home Thursday morning. His daughter emerged with her backpack saying she was going to school. The officials checked the backpack and found three fake IDs, a thumb drive, secure digital cards and debit cards.

It’s unclear if Patel’s daughter will face any punishment from law enforcement. A total of 61 people have been arrested so far as part of the scheme, a federal official said.

The Department of Justice officials warned people at a press conference Thursday not to be deceived by call centers schemes. Those involved in the call centers would target the elderly, saying they were with the IRS or police department, a Homeland Security official said.

Patel was a “runner” who would transfer money from the prepaid cards to other accounts, authorities said. He used fake names like “Jackie Dave” claiming to be an attorney for the IRS. Homeland Security officials said they have surveillance footage of him making unlawful deposits.

Patel, a U.S. citizen who’s lived in Fort Myers for eight years, faces felony charges for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, false impersonation of an officer and money laundering. He could get up to 45 years in prison and a $1 million fine. He posted $150,000 bond and left jail Thursday afternoon.

The judge in the case didn’t consider Patel a flight risk, so he declined to put him on house arrest, but he’s barred from leaving Fort Myers while the case is pending, except for court proceedings. He’s also not allowed to have a hand in any financial transactions involving the three Subway restaurants he co-owns.

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