Nobody likes getting telemarketing calls. One reason for this is that many such calls are schemes designed to cheat individuals out of their money. Indeed, a popular scam is to call unsuspecting persons claiming to be from a government agency. The caller is told they are under investigation for some imagined crime and that they need to pay a fine or send money to “clear their name”.
Of course, when the real government agencies find out about these schemes, they are highly motivated to identify and prosecute the scammers. Take this recent case from right here in Houston, United States v. Maknojiya. According to the United States Attorney’s office in Houston, the defendant in this case “was illegally residing” in the city and, more to the point, participated in “a telemarketing scheme via Indian call centers to extort money from victims in the United States.”
Back in November 2019, a Houston Police Department sergeant filed a formal affidavit outlining the defendant’s alleged crimes. The affidavit said victims were “contacted on the phone and coerced into believing they are under ‘investigation’ by ‘Agents’ of the FBI, DEA, and/or the Social Security Administration.” The fake agent then convinced the victim that “the only way to clear their name is to send cash to a Walgreens drugstore in the Houston Area, via Federal Express.” The affidavit identified three specific victims who fell for this scam.
The defendant allegedly served as a “runner”, someone sent to pick up the money sent by the victims. The sergeant said he personally reviewed video surveillance footage of the defendant picking up the cash at various locations throughout Houston. Altogether, prosecutors said the defendant picked up more than 70 packages containing cash, all while “using aliases and fake identification documents.”
The defendant ultimately agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The defendant will be formally sentenced by a federal judge in December. Under federal law, the maximum punishment for conspiracy to commit mail fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The defendant will also have to pay restitution to the victims of the scheme.
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“Conspiracy” is a word you will often hear in these types of cases. From a legal standpoint, a conspiracy is simply an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime, such as mail fraud. Prosecutors do not need to actually prove there was some written agreement or even that one conspirator knew about the other conspirators. All a prosecutor needs to secure a conviction is proof that the defendant engaged in at least one “overt act” designed to further the conspiracy, such as picking up money sent by one of the victims.
So if you find yourself facing possible conspiracy or mail fraud allegations and need legal representation from a qualified Galveston white collar criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates.