FORT MYERS, Fla., - A Lee County man is among 61 people busted in connection with a massive call center scam based in India.
Homeland Security Agents arrested Praful Patel, 49, of Fort Myers Thursday morning at his home on Whispering Trace Court.
Patel is being charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, impersonating an officer, and money laundering.
The conspirators tricked at least 15,000 people out of hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the Justice Department. The phony calls scam people by claiming to be from the IRS or Immigration and threaten people if they don't pay up.
"For nearly four years, this criminal network used a variety of schemes to trick frightened individuals," said Leslie Caldwell, Assistant Attorney General." She adds that the schemes threatened vulnerable people that, "they would be arrested, they would be deported, they would face other problems with the U.S government or with state and local law enforcement authorities."
The 3 year investigation revealed Patel participated in the scheme working as a "runner" who was in charge of collecting money from the scams and depositing the stolen funds into other bank accounts of identity theft victims.
Neighbors of Patel say they rarely saw him.
"It shows it can be right in your backyard," said Raymon O'Brien, a neighbor.
Four In Your Corner spoke with Patel's wife. She says she had no idea this scheme was going on inside their home.
The Department of Homeland Security reminds people that the government does not make these kinds of calls. If you get one, you are urged to report it.