A 33-year-old SeaTac man was sentenced this week to one year and one day in prison and three years of supervised release for a money laundering conviction related to his participation in a call center scheme to defraud elderly victims across the country, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman.
Arifkhan Pathan was arrested Jan. 4, 2021. Between August 2020 and January 2021, Pathan played a key role in defrauding 28 victims of more than $700,000. The restitution amount will be determined by U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik at a later date.
“According to the FBI, in 2022 there was more than $1 billion in victim losses due to these call center fraud schemes. These schemers often target elderly victims and pretend to be government officials to try to build trust so they can steal their money,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. “We need to repeatedly remind people that government employees will never ask you to withdraw and send packages of cash to some other address for ‘safe-keeping.’”
According to records filed in the case, in November 2020, investigators with Homeland Security Investigation became aware of suspicious packages arriving at Seattle UPS and FedEx locations. The investigation revealed the packages were filled with cash and were sent by victims from as far away as New York, Texas, and Colorado. The packages were sent to conspirators who used fake identity documents, such as driver’s licenses, to pick-up the packages.
According to multiple victims in the case, they had received a telephone call from someone who claimed to be employed by the Social Security Administration. The caller claimed the victim’s Social Security number had been compromised, and the only way to protect the victim’s money was to withdraw thousands of dollars in cash from their bank accounts and send it via UPS or FedEx to an “agent” elsewhere in the U.S. for safe-keeping. The callers allegedly demanded the victims send packages containing as much as $30,000 in cash. The scammers used UPS and FedEx so the co-conspirators could track the packages and pick up the packages of cash using the fake identity documents. The investigation revealed the callers were connected to an Indian call center.
Pathan used false driver’s licenses in real people’s identities to pick up packages of cash sent by victims. Pathan deposited much of the money he picked up in various bank accounts that could be accessed by his co-schemers. He was paid a commission on the money of about seven percent.
In asking for a 40-month prison sentence, Assistant United States Attorney Miriam Hinman wrote to the court:
“Seven of these victims have explained to the Court how severely the offense impacted them, including substantial loss of retirement savings, loss of credit, ongoing debt, and inability to afford basic items like groceries and medications. This financial hardship also caused victims to suffer from enormous anxiety, causing weight loss, migraines, and more….
“Pathan participated extensively in a fraud scheme that caused enormous harm to dozens of U.S. victims, many of whom were elderly and lost their retirement savings. He did so for personal profit and should not be allowed to escape from facing the consequences of his actions ….”
The case was investigated by the Homeland Security Investigations Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) comprised of representatives from HSI, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Seattle Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Miriam R. Hinman and Casey S. Conzatti.