TAMPA – A phone call to an Alton, Illinois, resident helped police identify the suspect of a bank fraud conspiracy, leading to one man’s six-year prison sentence Friday.

A federal judge sentenced Jaykumar Patel, 33, of Tampa, Florida, in the conspiracy. Patel is accused of moving criminal proceeds for an India-based fraud conspiracy that targeted elderly, vulnerable residents in the United States.

In June 2021, the Alton Police Department filed a report when a resident received a suspicious phone call from an individual who claimed to be a member of law enforcement. The caller warned her that her identity had been stolen.

According to the indictment, the caller demanded the victim to send $29,000 to an address in Florida so he could help rectify the situation. Despite his claim, the victim’s identity had not been stolen, the caller was not a law enforcement officer, and police agencies do not demand money from victims of identity theft over the phone. The victim didn’t realize that, so she sent the money.

A few days later, police arrested Patel when he tried to pick up a package in Florida. Investigators determined the fraud on the Alton woman was a small part of the criminal scheme. In 2021, Patel picked up or intended to pick up packages sent by victims containing more than $481,000 over the course of a few weeks.

“Those who prey on the most susceptible victims through these kind of scare tactics and phone scams must be punished to the full extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe. “Defendants both in the United States and overseas need to know that we will protect and defend vulnerable Americans.”

“Elder fraud is a growing problem as the country’s population gets older,” said FBI Springfield Field Office Special Agent in Charge David Nanz. “Illinois ranks ninth highest in total number of victims over age 60, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center 2021 Elder Fraud Report. The FBI takes elder fraud very seriously and, along with our law enforcement partners, will work to hold accountable those who take advantage of the isolation and vulnerability that often surrounds the elderly.”

Patel was also ordered to pay a $25,000 fine. Following this case, people are asked to use caution when speaking with strangers on the phone, especially if a caller is asking the person to send money. Talk to a family member or someone who can help if the call seems suspicious.