LEONIA, N.J. -- A borough police detective tracked down a pair of Indian nationals who authorities said stole more than $170,000 from 70 victims in 32 states through an I.R.S. scam.
"In some cases, the victims lost their life savings," Police Chief Thomas P. Rowe told Daily Voice this afternoon.
Detective Michael Jennings did the legwork that led to the arrests in Elizabeth of Akash Satish Patel, 32, and Nikita Natvarlal Patel, 25, both of the Iselin section of Woodbridge in Middlesex County, Rowe said.
Nikita Patel was in the country on an expired visa, the chief noted.
One of the victims contacted Jennings from Lexington, KY on Sept. 2, Rowe said. He told the detective that a caller threatened to have him arrested if he didn't pay a $1,400 tax debt, then had him wire the money to a MoneyGram account in the name of "Vincent Arora" at a CVS store on Broad Avenue in Leonia.
Jennings got a surveillance video of the pickup, created screen shots and then issued a statewide alert.
Contacting MoneyGram, he discovered that a "Vincent Arora" conducted 30 or so transactions in a week in various statewide locations, Rowe said.
MoneyGram later alerted Jennings that a transaction was scheduled at a Walmart in Watchung. He called his colleagues there, but they missed their target by 10 minutes. Surveillance video showed that it was the same man as in Leonia.MoneyGram again alerted Jennings to a scheduled transaction at a CVS in Elizabeth. The manager gave him a description of the thieves and a license plate number.
Elizabeth police followed the car and seized the Patels (who aren't related) after they collected money at a CVS in Union, Rowe said.Jennings andCapt. Scott Tamagny picked up the pair in Elizabeth and found $9,140 in cash in the car, along with MoneyGram receipts from throughout the state, as well as $10,822 in Nikita Patel's apartment.Both said that they "obtained information about the victims from individuals working in call centers located in India," Rowe said.
They were being held on $150,000 bail each in the Bergen County Jail, charged with conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
Rowe, meanwhile, cited Jennings' "hard work and perserverance."
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