Two Philadelphia Men Admit Roles in $5.8 Million Reloadable Debit Card Extortion Scam
CAMDEN, NJ—Two Philadelphia men today admitted their roles in a conspiracy to extort victims to load prepaid debit cards with funds that were stolen as part of the scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Alpeshkumar Patel, 31, and Vijaykumar Patel, 40, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb to separate informations charging them with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Alpeshkumar Patel and Vijaykumar Patel admitted that from September 2013 through March 2014, they were part of a conspiracy to steal money using reloadable debit cards. First, conspirators would purchase reloadable Green Dot Cards, and register them in names other than their own. The conspirators contacted victims by phone and used threats or deceit to induce them to put money on MoneyPak cards, which are used along with assigned PIN codes to add funds to Green Dot Cards.
Alpeshkumar Patel and Vijaykumar Patel admitted that they obtained the Green Dot Cards and used them to purchase money orders. Afterwards, they deposited the funds into bank accounts associated with the scheme.
Phone numbers and IP addresses connected with the conspiracy were tied to approximately 2,500 Green Dot Cards that were funded in excess of $5.8 million.
The conspiracy to commit wire fraud charge to which Alpeshkumar Patel and Vijaykumar Patel pleaded guilty is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for Jan. 15, 2016.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents, detectives and investigators assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, under the direction of FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel in Newark, and FBI Special Agent in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. in Philadelphia, as well as special agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Kelly in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s pleas.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Kogan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.