NEW YORK: Waseem Maknojiya, a 38-year-old Indian national, has been sentenced to five years in prison by a Texas court for committing mail fraud and duping customers via Indian call centres.
Maknojiya, who was illegally residing in Houston, had pleaded guilty on September 13, 2021, a press statement by the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Texas said.
On Tuesday, US District Judge Lynn N. Hughes ordered Maknojiya to serve 60 months in federal prison. Not an American citizen, he is expected to face removal proceedings following his imprisonment. Between April and October 2019, Maknojiya was involved in a telemarketing scheme via Indian call centres to extort money from victims in the US.
He acted as a runner in these schemes, using aliases and fake identification documents to pick up more than 70 parcels containing cash the scheme’s victims had mailed, the press release stated.
One common script used in the scheme involved coercing victims into believing federal agents were investigating them. The “agent” on the phone would convince the victim the only way to clear his or her name from investigation was to send cash in a parcel shipped through FedEx to a name and address they provided.
Runners in the US like Maknojiya would then pick up the parcels.
At the time of his plea, he agreed to pay restitution to the scheme’s identified victims. He will remain in custody pending transfer to a US Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.