Man charged with theft in international scheme that stole $735,000 from Houston County man

June 14 – CALEDONIA, Minnesota – A Houston County man loses an estimated $735,000 after he was scammed by an India-based organization and an Illinois man accused of helping the organization faces a one count of theft, according to new charges filed in Houston County District Court.

Dineshkumar Raojibhai Patel, 59, appeared before District Judge Carmaine Sturino Monday, June 12, 2023, on a charge of attempted robbery by fraud, a felony.

He was released on $5,000 bail on the condition that he have no contact with the victim or his family and surrender his passport. Patel posted bond the same day.

According to the criminal complaint:

A Department of Homeland Security investigation found that a Houston County man was repeatedly targeted by an India-based organization that convinces senior citizens to pack cash in parcels and send it through the mail or delivering them to a financial mule, someone bringing the money back and forth to a criminal enterprise.

The Houston County Sheriff’s Office was notified by DHS on May 5, 2023, and began investigating the matter. The victim, who was initially hesitant to speak to law enforcement, said he was contacted by a scammer claiming to be a US customs officer on December 7, 2022.

The man was informed that his information related to an illicit package and that a federal arrest warrant would be issued for him if he did not cooperate. The man was told that a Federal Trade Commission officer would be in touch to advise him on how to resolve the issue.

The alleged officer convinced the man to give bundles of cash to other alleged officers, called money mules in the complaint, nine times since March 24, 2023. The money mules and vehicles that they used were different for each pickup.

The man told law enforcement he paid the scammers about $735,000 to avoid jail time.

Local law enforcement aided DHS agents in an undercover operation on June 8, 2023, where the scammers were told there would be a $75,000 recovery.

The victim, who had been given $75,000 worth of counterfeit money by law enforcement, was on the phone with the scammer during pick-up when Patel approached the scene in a vehicle with a license plate from Illinois.

After the money was handed over and while Patel was counting the money, law enforcement approached the vehicle and stopped him.

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