A federal grand jury in Seattle indicted a 30-year-old SeaTac man for allegedly playing a role in which multiple elderly people fell victim to a scam to pay money after they received a telephone call from someone who claimed to be employed by the Social Security Administration.
Arifkhan Pathan faces two counts of mail fraud related to his participation in a scheme to defraud elderly victims across the country, said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran in a Jan. 22 U.S. Department of Justice news release.
According to the indictment, between August and December 2020, Pathan played a role in defrauding victims of more than $400,000. He was arrested by federal authorities on Jan. 4.
“Many of us keep getting those calls from someone claiming our Social Security number has been ‘compromised,’ and the best action is to just hang up,” Moran said. “But for some, especially the elderly, the fear of losing their money or income keeps them on the line and leads them to fall prey to a scammer who drains their bank account. This indictment goes after a key cog in the scam: the money mule.”
According to records filed in the case, in November 2020, investigators with Homeland Security Investigation and the Seattle Police Department 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.
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 withdraw 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 overseas call center. Pathan was allegedly a key player in the scheme, who recruited others to pick up packages of cash using fake identity documents.
Pathan deposited the money in various bank accounts that could be accessed by his co-schemers. He was paid a commission on the money of about 2%. When Pathan’s residence was searched in early January, investigators seized additional false identity information and a ledger that revealed Pathan had picked up and allegedly transferred at least $400,000 to his co-schemers.
Mail fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.