Six Jersey City residents charged in phone scam

Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey and Chief James Parker of the South Plainfield Police Department said today that six people have been arrested and charged with participating in a telephone scam that netted more than $120,000 from their victims.

An investigation determined that the victims were led to believe they owed money to the IRS and would be arrested if they did not make restitution. In some cases, victims were convinced that family members had been arrested and they needed money for lawyers’ fees or to post bond.

The callers told victims to pass money through gift cards from large retail stores with locations in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. The defendants then used the cards to make purchases.

The individuals were charged during the investigation by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, the South Plainfield Police Department, the Jersey City Police Department, and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations – Newark Division.

The defendants are identified as: Ronak Butani, 24, Jay Kakadiya, 24, Akashkumar Chovatiya, 23, Divyesh Patel, 23, Jagdishkumar Patel, 22, and Brijeshkumar Parmar, 26, all of Jersey City.

They are being held on various charges, including counts of money laundering and conspiracy.

The investigation, aided by officials from one of the retailers, determined that individuals in India scammed victims across the United States.

Everyone is a potential target for fraud.  These scams are not limited to gender, age, race, or education.

To avoid being victimized, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office recommends potential victims consider the following before sending money:

  • Is this the government?  Be aware that the IRS and police will not demand payments over the phone.
  • What’s the hurry? Fast talkers using high-pressure tactics could be hiding something.

The investigation is active and is continuing.  Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Ryan Tighe or Detective Christopher Pennisi, both of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, at (732) 745-3300.

As is the case with all criminal defendants, the charges against the six defendants are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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