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Cyber Crimes
05/27/2020

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ICE HSI arrests 4 in international telemarketing fraud ring targeting senior citizens

JACKSON, Miss. – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested three men May 22, and a fourth was arrested May 27, on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, aggravated identity theft, and fictitious obligations following a federal criminal indictment.

HSI Jackson special agents arrested James Haynes, 65, Jarvis Haynes, 29, and Neman Zahid, 32, of Jackson, Miss., after an original indictment returned by a federal grand jury on March 19, 2019, charged the defendants with defrauding multiple victims as part of an international tech support and telemarketing fraud scheme.

In addition to the three arrests by HSI Jackson, HSI Grand Rapids special agents arrested Ankit Puri, an Indian national, in the Western district of Michigan on May 27. Puri was indicted in the Southern District of Mississippi for conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, aggravated identity theft, and fictitious obligations.

According to the indictment, ten named defendants engaged in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and bank fraud, to make money and profit by defrauding individual victims and financial institutions through telemarketing. Members of the telemarketing ring would contact victims by telephone and electronic mail, claiming to offer technical support and assistance to free victims’ personal computers from malicious software or viruses that may have affected their computers. The fraud ring participants persuaded victims to grant remote access to their computers, and the actors would pretend to be fixing the malware, while searching for the victims’ bank account information and online access passwords. They also convinced victims to wire or send money, as well as to open and create new accounts for the defendants to receive and transfer funds. The criminal ring in particularly targeted elderly victims. When victims complained or sought refunds, ring members counterfeited checks based on the victims’ bank information and sent the fictitious obligations back to the victims to deceive them.

“This remains a dynamic, coordinated investigation involving the efforts of multiple Homeland Security Investigations field offices,” said Jere T. Miles, special agent in charge of HSI New Orleans. “These arrests demonstrate that no matter how and where crimes are committed, nothing and no one is beyond the reach of the law. Criminals who use the internet to defraud victims in our community won’t be able to hide.”

According to court documents and testimony, between January 2015 and December 2018, James T. Haynes, Jarvis K. Haynes, and Neman Zahid, in conjunction with seven other defendants, are alleged to have established corporations and limited liability companies in Mississippi and elsewhere, to have opened bank accounts for those corporations, and aided and facilitated in telemarketing scams across the United States as well as overseas. Each of the three men arraigned this week had opened bank accounts in those company names to receive and transfer money defrauded from victims. They also each withdrew and sent money from the corporate shell accounts, to themselves and overseas to fellow conspirators and ring members.

Each of the three men faces enhanced maximum penalties of 30 years for the conspiracy count, 30 years for each count of mail fraud and wire fraud; 40 years for each bank fraud count; 20 years for each money laundering count; a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years for each count of aggravated identity theft; and 25 years for each count of fictitious obligations. Each count also can merit a fine of up to $250,000. Federal law enhances the maximum penalties up to ten additional years under the SCAM Act (the Senior Citizens Against Marketing Scams Act of 1994), for targeting persons over the age of 55 during listed fraud offenses in connection with telemarketing or e-mail marketing.

The trial is scheduled for June 29, 2020 in Jackson, Miss., before Chief U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 05/28/2020