New York, Dec 1 (PTI) Four Indian-origin persons have been charged in a USD 3.5 million wire fraud by pretending to be tax officials and collecting money by threatening over 7,300 people, the US Justice department said.

Pratik Patel, 26, Moin Gohil, 22, Parvez Jiwani, 39, and Nakul Chetiwal, 27 have been charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aiding and abetting, according to a statement by the Justice Department yesterday.

Gregory J Haanstad, the Wisconsin Eastern District prosecutor, said the scheme was “likely originating from India”.

According to the criminal complaint, members of the scheme likely based in India would call victims in the US and tell them that they have to pay taxes. They further said that they needed to send money via wire transfer.

After the victims sent payment, the three Georgia men, known as “runners”, would use fraudulent identification cards to pick up the money.

Haanstad said that Gohil, Chetiwal and Jiwani, who were allegedly “runners” picked up USD 666,537 sent from 784 victims between January 25, 2016 and August 8, 2017.

In addition, the false identities used by Gohil, Chetiwal, and Jiwani are linked to an additional 6,530 fraudulent transactions totaling USD 2.8 million, he added.

The scheme, which is sometimes referred to as an “IRS Impersonation Scheme”, is bigger than the four men charged.

Patel “aided and abetted” at least one of the runners, he said.

They have been charged with three offences — wire fraud (which is using electronic communication to commit fraud), conspiracy and aiding and abetting crimes.

They could face a maximum prison term of 20 years and USD 250,000 fine for each of the crimes if found guilty, the statement said.

In November, US authorities busted an Ahmedabad-based operation which defrauded residents of at least USD 25 million.

Five men, who were arrested in the US, admitted their guilt in federal courts in Texas and Arizona and were awaiting sentencing.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.