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Police In NJ: Duo Ran Multistate IRS Phone Scam

LEONIA, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Two suspects are accused of bilking at least 70 people in 32 states out of their hard-earned cash.

The man and woman are behind bars, all thanks to a Bergen County detective, CBS2's Christine Sloan reported.

Akash Satish Patel, 32, who was visiting from India, allegedly ran a phone scam targeting people with past IRS problems. He would claim to be with the government, authorities said.

"You have a person who will call a victim and threaten them with arrest if they do not pay a certain amount of money in an expeditious fashion," Leonia police Chief Thomas Rowe said.

Akash Patel and a woman, Nikita Natvarlal Patel, 25, were arrested days after a victim notified Leonia police Detective Michael Jennings.

Jennings told Sloan he was hot on the suspect's trail. "A couple of times, I was 10 to 15 minutes behind him," he said.

Jennings worked with MoneyGram, getting tipped off whenever Akash Patel made a transaction.

He was finally arrested by Elizabeth police at a CVS Pharmacy after collecting cash he allegedly got from a victim through MoneyGram. Nikita Patel was with him in the car.

"They spotted them walking into a CVS," Jennings said. "They waited until they completed their transaction."

The transaction was captured on surveillance video.

Police have seized more than $150,000 from the duo, who are not related. They are both charged with conspiracy to commit theft by deception.

Investigators said Nikita Patel is in the United States on an expired visa.

The homeowner at the house where Akash Patel was staying spoke to Sloan from behind the door.

"We did not have any idea Akash was visiting from India," the woman said.

Police say a call center in India gave the suspects the victim's names.

"This stuff needs to be brought back to our country, and it should be heavily guarded," Rowe said. "The people who work in these call centers should be background-checked financially and criminally."

Police say they hope to take some of the money they seized and give it back to the victims.
MoneyGram released a statement in response to the arrests

"MoneyGram's services and products are trusted by tens of millions of consumers around the globe to connect family, friends and loved ones through reliable, money transfer services. MoneyGram works very closely with law enforcement and other agencies to assist in the arrest, indictment and prosecution of criminals," the statement said.

"We also encourage consumers who think they may have been a victim to file a police report, even if only a small amount of money was lost," the statement continued. "Reporting a crime helps us spot trends and stay one step ahead of the criminals and the fast-changing fraud scenarios. MoneyGram has taken a leadership position in consumer fraud education and is the founding member of the Scam Awareness Alliance, a nonprofit organization that provides information about scams. Consumers can learn more at"

CVS said only that it cooperated with the police investigation that led to the arrests.

Police are looking for additional victims to come forward.

The IRS will never call to demand payment. Its first notification will always come through the mail.

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