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Two alleged money mules arrested in connection with transnational phone scams

Milton (February 18, 2020) – The RCMP arrested and charged a married couple from Brampton on February 12 for fraud and money laundering in connection with transnational phone scams. Gurinderpreet Dhaliwal (37) and Inderpreet Dhaliwal (36) are alleged to have been acting as money mules for scammers located in India conducting Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scams, among other phone schemes. The apprehension was a result of the RCMP’s investigation project Octavia. The two suspects are facing charges of Fraud Over $5,000, Laundering of the Proceeds of Crime, and Property Obtained by Crime.

Update (November 30, 2020): The RCMP laid charges against two individuals in connection with transnational telephone frauds as part of Project Octavia. Vimal Shrestha (41) and Bindisha Joshi (41) of Lalitpur/Kathmandu in Nepal are charged with: Fraud over $5,000, Possession of proceeds of crime, Laundering of the proceeds of crime. The Mounties issued Canada-wide arrest warrants for both suspects as they are believed to be in Nepal.

Update (July 31, 2020): The RCMP arrested another individual in connection to transnational telephone scams, including the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) telephone scam, the Bank Investigator scam, and the Tech support scam. The authorities charged Jatin Chahal (21) of Brampton with Fraud over $5,000, Possession of Proceeds of Crime, and Laundering of the Proceeds of Crime. He was released on an undertaking and is scheduled to appear in court on September 25. The RCMP said that the Project Octavia investigation is continuing and that they anticipate further arrests.

As a result of project Octavia, the RCMP arrested two alleged money mules in connection with transnational phone scams on February 12, according to a press release of the RCMP’s financial crime section.

Project Octavia

In October 2018, the RCMP Greater Toronto Area Financial Crime section launched project Octavia to combat CRA scams. Besides enforcement, the investigation also focused on public awareness and disruption. Investigators uncovered that money mules and money mule managers of these transnational scams are operating in Canada.

Money mules are intermediaries between Canadian victims and the organized crime groups operating the call centers in India who conduct the phone scams such as the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) scam, the bank investigator scam, or the tech support scam. Typically, money mules are located in Canada and receive the money from the victims while assisting with laundering the funds before they transfer their prey to the criminal groups abroad. Experts say that money mules are usually the people who are making the least money in a scam.

CRA phone scam money mules

On February 12, the RCMP’s financial crime section in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) arrested Gurinderpreet Dhaliwal (37) and Inderpreet Dhaliwal (36) from Brampton in connection to various transnational phone scams. Husband and wife each has been charged with Fraud Over $5,000, Laundering of the Proceeds of Crime, and Property Obtained by Crime.

The investigators uncovered that they have been acting as money mules for the scammers that are operating out of India. During the investigation, the mounties searched the couple’s home and seized $26,000 in cash, $114,000 in jewelry, a cash-counting machine and envelopes allegedly sent by scam victims containing money they believed they owed.

‘We have disrupted the necessary flow of money from Canada to India which will have a big impact on the operation and the bottom line of the scammers,’ said Insp. Jim Ogden on Friday.

As a consequence, the RCMP additionally issued a Canada-wide arrest warrant for Shantanu Manik (26). Manik is a foreign national who is believed to be currently located in India.

Transnational phone scams

Between 2014 and 2019, Canadians lost over $16.8 million in total as a result of so-called CRA scams. According to the RCMP, the fraudulent callers conducting phone scams are commonly operating out of India and are targeting Canadians since 2014.

The CRA scam is a scheme in which the caller impersonates a member of the CRA or other federal government agencies. They intimidate victims by phone, email or by text messages into paying non-existent fines or taxes. Sometimes, they also try to steal personal information from their victims during the bogus exchange.

‘The scam has also caused fear due to the threat of arrest by the fraudsters who claim to be from various Canadian government agencies. This has led to Canadians becoming wary or suspicious even when CRA is attempting legitimate contact,’ explained the mounties in their press release.

International law enforcement

Due to the location of the fraudulent call centers in India, the RCMP is cooperating with Indian authorities, which led to a number of police raids on illegal call centers on-site. However, despite the police raids, Canadians are still being targeted by those rogues.

The arrest of the Dhaliwals related to their alleged money mule operations resulted from a cooperation of national and international law enforcement agencies such as the RCMP Liaison Office – New Delhi,  the CRA, foreign authorities, including the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation; US authorities based in India and provincial/municipal police services throughout Canada.

‘Project Octavia demonstrates how the efforts of law enforcement agencies, other government departments, and private sector partnerships at a local, national and international level, can work effectively to combat crime,’ said Inspector Jim Ogden, Officer in Charge of the GTA Financial Crime Section.

Read more: Individual arrested in connection with nation-wide phone scams

The suspects were both released on their own recognizance and are each scheduled to appear in court on March 2. The RCMP announced that further arrests and charges may be forthcoming as a result of this investigation.

Furthermore, the mounties recommended in their press release that anybody should hang up the phone when being asked for personal or banking information and report the activity to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) or the local police if threats are involved. Moreover, they advised not to interact with e-mails or text messages that make suspicious tax claims and ask the recipient to click on a link to submit information.