- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Federal prosecutors in New Jersey say two Philadelphia men conspired to extort victims to load prepaid debit cards with funds that were stolen as part of the scheme.

Federal agents arrested 30-year-old Alpeshkumar Patel and 39-year-old Vijaykumar Patel at that latter’s home on Tuesday morning. The men, who are not related, were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Prosecutors say the men were involved in the conspiracy from September 2013 through March 2014. Each man faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Participants allegedly bought the reloadable debit cards and registered them in other people’s names. The conspirators - some of whom were located in India - contacted victims by phone and used threats or deceit to induce them to put money on cards that are used along with assigned PIN codes to add funds to the debit cards.

The conspirators then used the reloadable cards to purchase money orders that were deposited into bank accounts. All of the steps were taken quickly, so law enforcement and victims could not identify the conspirators or prevent or reverse the fraudulent transfers.

Prosecutors say telephone numbers and computer IP addresses associated with calls tied to the conspiracy were linked to approximately 2,500 Green Dot Cards that were funded in excess of $5.8 million.

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