December 2, 2022

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Indian national sentenced for government impersonation call center scam

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HOUSTON – A 38-year-old Indian citizen who was illegally residing in Houston has been ordered to prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Waseem Maknojiya pleaded guilty Sept. 13, 2021.

Today, U.S. District Judge U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes ordered him to serve 60 months in federal prison. Not a U.S. citizen, Maknojiya is expected to face removal proceedings following his imprisonment.

Between April and October 2019, Maknojiya was involved in a telemarketing scheme via Indian call centers to extort money from victims in the United States. Maknojiya 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.

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 United States like Maknojiya would then pick up the parcels.

At the time of his plea, Maknojiya agreed to pay restitution to the scheme’s identified victims.

Maknojiya will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The FBI, Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG) and Department of Homeland Security – OIG conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Houston Police Department and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephanie Bauman and Eun Kate Suh prosecuted the case.

The SSA consistently warns people of similar scams. Learn how to protect yourself!

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