PCSO aids in arrests of six in fraud scams targeting elderly citizens
ATLANTA, Ga. — The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office recently aided in the arrests of six defendants indicted for fraud that included targeting elderly citizens.
The PCSO, along with 19 other law enforcement agencies across the country, aided the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
“This case involves an alleged scheme to defraud victims, many of whom are elderly, out of their hard-earned savings,” said U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “It is a particularly egregious type of fraud that is becoming an all-too-common occurrence. It involves dishonest individuals around the world, including in the United States, scaring good people with lies and then cheating them out of their money.”
The six defendants were arrested for allegedly participating in a conspiracy to defraud victims in the United States, many of whom are elderly, and pretended to work for the United States government or represent a company. The scam would proceed as follows:
- The victim would receive a robocall recording or email message with a callback number that connected to the alleged scammers.
- When the victim would call, the scammer, posing as a government agency, would say the victim was in some sort of trouble, oftentimes pretending to be a Social Security Administration employee, saying the victims Social Security Number was compromised in some way. The scammer would then tell the victim to pay the money immediately, and if they did not, they would be arrested.
- If the scammer claimed to work for a legitimate company, they reported that the victim was entitled to a company refund.
- The scammer would then convince the victim to download computer software that would allow the scammer to remotely access the computer.
- From there, the scammer manipulated the victim’s bank accounts to make it appear that, when attempting to refund the victim his or her money, the scammer “accidentally” refunded too much, and thus, the victim now owed a “debt” to the company. If the victim did not pay back this perceived debt, they would face certain consequences.
In both instances, once the scammer on the telephone scared the victims, the scammer would instruct the victim on how to pay money, sometimes to withdraw cash, package the cash in shipping boxes, and deliver the package as instructed.
Other times, the individual on the phone would tell the victim to obtain gift cards and provide the redemption code on the back of the card.
Oftentimes, the individual on the phone would tell the victim to wire money to a particular bank account, withdraw their money for cashier’s checks made payable to a specific company, or deposit cash directly into a specific company’s bank account.
The six defendants all allegedly created companies with various Secretaries of State offices and then opened bank accounts in the company’s names. These companies, however, did little to no legitimate business and instead tried to receive and transfer victim funds. And it was into these bank accounts that the scammer on the phone instructed the victim to deposit their money.
The defendants and their companies are:
- Vikas Mehta, 48, of Cliffside Park, New Jersey, created two companies: Snoopy Trust LLC and MVJ Holdings LLC.
- Walter Valdivia, 69, of Boca Raton, Florida, created Achieve Capital Group LLC and ACG Accounts Inc.
- Pradip Parikh, 63, of Valley Stream, New York, formed JDM Management Inc.
- Jaime Salas, 27, of Acworth, Georgia, formed Salas Construction LLC.
- Alpesh Patel, 37 of Louisa, Virginia, created Seven Points Agency LLC.
- Darash Shah, 22 of Boston, Massachusetts, formed Turtle Dove Holdings LLC.
“These indictments send a solid message that my office will continue to pursue perpetrators of these vicious Social Security-related imposter scams designed to target and harm vulnerable people, including the elderly,” said Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. “I thank the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration criminal investigators for their significant efforts; additionally, I thank the many law enforcement agencies for their substantial contributions to this major investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecuting this case.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and SSA-OIG would like to thank the law enforcement agencies for their work in this case.
The public should exercise caution with any caller who claims to be a government employee. Government agencies will never threaten you with immediate arrest or other legal action if you do not send cash, retail gift cards, prepaid debit cards, wire transfers, or Internet currency. They will also never demand secrecy from you in resolving a debt or any other problem.
If you need to send a payment to the Social Security Administration, the agency will send a letter with payment options and appeal rights.
If you or someone you know is age 65 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).