Public Safety

Suspect in Scamming of National City Woman Arrested

Video by Dominic Fulgoni
Beth Baker, featured in a County News Center story in 2015, got scammed out of more than $65,000.

The San Diego District Attorney’s Office helped to take down a suspect in a transnational criminal organization that scammed victims out of hundreds of millions of dollars, including a National City woman who lost $65,000 in a “grandma scam” two years ago, the DA’s Office reported.

The Justice Department arrested 56 defendants last week in connection with their involvement in victimizing tens of thousands of people in the U.S. The federal indictments involve 20 defendants, who were arrested in the U.S., along with 32 others and five call centers in India.

Dilipkumar Patel, 52, is one of the co-conspirators arrested in the U.S. He is alleged to have operated in Southern California, and targeted victims in the San Diego region.

“Scam artists operating outside the U.S. aren’t easy to catch,” District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said. “But times are changing and these latest arrests are proof that law enforcement isn’t going to let the scammers get away with it. Our DA investigators along with our Elder Abuse Unit played a vital role in hunting down and dismantling this web of thieves.”

Call center operators would contact potential victims and impersonate officials from the IRS or Immigration. They would threaten potential victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay taxes or penalties to the government. If the victims agreed to pay, the call centers used a network of U.S.-based co-conspirators to liquidate and launder the extorted funds as quickly as possible by purchasing prepaid debit cards or through wire transfers.

Beth Baker of National City fell victim to this international ring of scam artists two years ago when the fraudsters used the well-known ‘grandma scam.’ The 86-year-old received a phone call from someone claiming to be with the U.S. Embassy in Peru. The caller said her grandson had been arrested in connection with a car accident and he needed bail money.

He told her to purchase pre-paid money cards – Green Dot cards – and to provide him with the numbers on the card, essentially transferring the money to him. Within one week, Baker had given the scammer more than $65,000, depleting her savings account.

When she went to her bank to try to get a loan to send even more money, a banker realized Ms. Baker was being scammed and alerted her son, Jim. Investigators in the DA’s Elder Abuse Unit have been investigating Ms. Baker’s case for nearly two years. Through numerous bank search warrants and analysis of records, they were able to trace Baker’s money through the system, which led to Patel, an Indian national living in Corona, California, who is believed to have laundered much of the money stolen from Ms. Baker.

In addition to Baker, another San Diego victim in her 80s was scammed out of more than $12,000 and the District Attorney believes there might be other local victims.

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact