Sahil Narang, 29, who was in the United States illegally at the time of his arrest in May 2019, is described in court documents as a key participant in a sophisticated so-called Tech Fraud and Refund Fraud online telemarketing schemes that targeted technologically unsophisticated computer users, usually senior citizens.
Narang had pleaded guilty on December 11, 2020, to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and ten counts of wire fraud. He was sentenced on Wednesday to 36 months in federal prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, said the Acting United States Attorney Richard B Myrus.
According to federal prosecutors, Internet pop-up advertisements were used in the Tech Fraud scheme to deceive computer users into believing that they needed computer protection services.
The pop-up ads provided a telephone number to call and when the victims dialled the number, they were routed to call centre operators who perpetuated the lie that malware had been detected on the victims’ computers. They offered the victims supposed computer protection services at exaggerated prices.
In the Refund Fraud scheme, call centre operators telephoned those who had fallen prey to the Tech Fraud and offered to refund the sum previously paid.
Through manipulation that usually involved the display of false bank account balances on the customers’ computer screens, the operators convinced the victims that sums far in excess of the refund amount had accidentally been deposited into the victims’ accounts.
As the victims had not in fact received any money, those who ‘returned’ money were actually sending more of their own money to the fraudsters, federal prosecutors said.
According to information presented to the court, between August 30, 2019, and May 1, 2019, Narang and others worked together to manipulate thousands of callers employing the Tech Fraud scheme, seeking to obtain from them an estimated USD 1.5 million to USD 3 million.
An FBI investigation determined that over a nine-month period Narang routed on average more than 70 calls to call centres every day. It is also estimated that Narang’s Tech Fraud scheme was successful 30 per cent of the time.
In round two of the scheme, the Refund Fraud scheme, executed during the same nine-month period, Narang and others associated with call centres sought to obtain from their victims cumulatively USD 560,900.
The FBI investigation identified at least nine individuals who fell victim to the Tech Fraud Scheme at a total loss of USD 110,900, which the FBI was able to intercept and return to the victims. During the investigation, the FBI interceded and prevented loss when a tenth victim was on the verge of losing up to USD 450,000 to the fraudsters.