BEAUMONT, Texas – A Washington man who was targeting innocent, unsuspecting seniors across East Texas was sentenced Tuesday to serve time in federal prison for fraud violations, U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston announced.
Aakash Kalpesh Gandhi, 28, pleaded guilty on Nov. 4, 2021, to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison. A judge also ordered Gandhi ordered to pay restitution to his victims, many of whom are elderly. The exact amount has not yet been determined.
“We need help getting the word out to look out for our neighbors. Our greatest generation is constantly being attacked by phone and computer scammers. Tricked, our elderly and some not-so elder generations are falling prey to phone scammers who threaten them with jail time if they don’t withdraw, package and mail money across the country,” said Featherston. “No government agency will threaten you with jail over the phone and then demand cash be wrapped in foil and mailed. Scoundrels like Gandhi take advantage of our senior citizens and he was part of a very large network that houses hundreds of callers who spend their days calling and scamming. When in doubt about a possible scam call or email, contact someone you trust and ask them if the call is legitimate or contact your local law enforcement. Gandhi’s scam would have been thwarted if a victim would have simply googled ‘social security phone scams,’ and the very quick search result would show the phone call was a scam. Preventing someone from being a victim is a lot easier than trying to recover the stolen money after the fact.”
According to information presented in court, Gandhi and his co-conspirators operated a scheme designed to defraud victims throughout the United States. Co-conspirators from call centers based in India would target unsuspecting victims claiming that those victims would suffer financial ruin or criminal liability if they did not immediately send money to correct fictional problems often involving the victim’s social security benefits. To enhance the viability of the scheme, co-conspirators fraudulently identified themselves as government agents to their unsuspecting victims.
Gandhi tracked currency shipments for the conspiracy and recovered packages of United States currency shipped by those who had been victimized by the scheme, including victims within the Eastern District of Texas. Gandhi would receive a fee from a portion of the contents of those packages and deliver the remaining currency to co-conspirators. A majority of the funds were ultimately distributed to various locations in India. Gandhi was indicted by a federal grand jury in Beaumont on July 8, 2021.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has made a concerted effort to not only prosecute those involved with these illegal activities, but to educate and inform the public on the many fraudulent schemes targeting our seniors and how to avoid them. Assistant U.S. Attorneys across the Eastern District of Texas have visited various senior facilities and community groups to provide outreach and educate the public on how to protect themselves and their families. Groups or organizations that are interested in securing a speaker for their event should contact Assistant U.S. Attorney Camelia Lopez at 972-509-1201.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim, and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is staffed 10am-6pm Eastern Time, Monday-Friday. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations in Seattle and Houston, the Seattle (WA) Police Department, Department of Human Services-OIG, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), and the Beaumont Police Department. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan C. Lee.