IRS Phone Scammer Caught by Leonia Police Facing Deportation
B y Mary K. Miraglia
Leonia, NJ: An Indian national busted by a Leonia detective in a $170,000 IRS phone scam that claimed 70 victims in 32 states was sentenced to time served in exchange for a guilty plea and a promise to cooperate with prosecutors.
Her lawyer said that Nikita Patel, 25, "plans to stay in the area and go back to school.” But the INS has placed a deportation detainer on her, so she must remain in the Bergen County Jail for now.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Brian Lynch said he will work hard to see that Patel -- who was in the US on an expired visa -- is sent back to India.
Her partner, Akash Satish Patel, also pleaded guilty and was deported.
The Patels -- who aren't related -- acted as runners, collecting funds wired by unsuspecting victims.
"In some cases, the victims lost their life savings," Leonia Police Chief Thomas P. Rowe said last fall.
One of those victims contacted Leonia police from Lexington, KY in early September.
A scammer threatened to have him arrested if he didn't pay a $1,400 tax debt, then had him wire the money to a MoneyGram account in the name of "Vincent Arora" at a CVS store on Broad Avenue, he said.
Detective Michael Jennings got a surveillance video of the pickup, created screen shots and issued a statewide alert.
Contacting MoneyGram, he discovered that a "Vincent Arora" conducted 30 or so transactions in a week in various statewide locations.
MoneyGram later alerted Jennings that a scheduled transaction in Watchung. Police missed their target by 10 minutes, but surveillance video showed that it was the same man as in Leonia.
MoneyGram again alerted Jennings to a scheduled transaction at an Elizabeth CVS in early September. The manager gave him a description of the thieves and a license plate number.
Elizabeth police followed the car and seized the Patels, Rowe said.
Leonia police picked up the pair and found $9,140 in cash in the car, along with MoneyGram receipts from throughout the state. They also found $10,822 in Nikita Patel's apartment.
Authorities hope they can now find the ringleaders.
It'll be tough: The Patels said that they got victim information from call centers in India. – Daily Voice