Note: This is an updated version of an earlier article that had covered the allegations of a scam in the case.
For a while now, a US-based businessman became a part of the non-Left ecosystem on Twitter. Several high profile individuals followed him and patronised him. Neel Patel alias Hitesh Patel had also promised to launch a social media platform that would rival Twitter. However, recently, grievous allegations have surfaced against the individual. Only recently, he had sent iPhones to non-Left celebrities as a mark of ‘appreciation’. However, few knew that a potential scam was lurking behind the scenes.
How it started and how many on social media got involved
On social media, one often follows mutuals and those who at least appear to be authentic. One of the important aspects could also be how ideological alignment plays a role in how a person gets espoused and the level of faith that he manages to build. Neel Patel, on the face of it, or at least based on his tweets on social media, appeared to be someone who aligned with the non-Left in India. Over time, he managed to gain the trust of several people.
Sunaina Holey was one such individual who started professionally working with Neel. According to her social media posts, she worked with Neel Patel for 3 months and drew a salary of Rs 2 lac for the entire duration. She has taken to Twitter to say that she quit the job after she found out about the scam that was unfolding.
.. @nto1927 paid me 2 lac in 3 months as a salary or whatever. Because I am sure it has come to me from someone’s loss. I wanted to return him the money but he didn’t share his account details.— Sunaina Holey (@SunainaHoley) February 15, 2021
I would like to pay it to those who lost their money if they provide me the proof.
Other than Sunaina, it seems that Neel could win the trust of several others on Social Media who ended up tweeting about his business or relaying their faith in him.
I will be responsible alone if you don’t get the iphones from @nto1927— controversial desi mojito (@desimojito) October 25, 2020
I trust him more than the people I know personally from Twitter. I mean it.
Once allegations of a scam surfaced, those who had ended up endorsing Neel Patel after he had gained their trust, offered an explanation saying that they had no financial association with Neel Patel. Mohit tweeted to say that he believed there really was no ‘iPhone scam’ at all.
P.S : I am not associated with Neel in anything financially.— controversial desi mojito (@desimojito) February 17, 2021
No matter what happens tomorrow, I am out of this case from now onwards.
I am just done with all this.
Mohit was not alone and several others received gifts and vouchers from Neel Patel. However, not everyone tweeted in support of his business interests. Many in social media argued that even the acceptance of gifts was wrong, even if it was done before allegations of the scam surfaced.
The allegations of the potential scam
The allegation of potential scam came to the fore on February 15, 2021, when Netizens Nishant Singh and Abhimanyu Srana came up with a thread alleging that one Twitter user Neel Patel alias Hitesh Patel has been scamming people for more than 15 years. Nishant has uploaded a 30+ minute video on his YouTube channel and made a detailed thread on what he has dug on Patel, a US-based businessman, in the last couple of months.
OpIndia went through the allegations and explanations given by Neel. We also contacted Suhel Khan, whose name was mentioned in the thread as one of the alleged co-conspirators. Here is what we learned till now.
Allegations made by Nishant and Abhimanyu
In the thread and video, Nishant and Abhimanyu gave an overview of what they allegedly found about Neel Patel’s ‘businesses’ in the last 15 years. They made several allegations which we will list down one by one.
The Sweden Visa Scam of 2005-06
The first allegation they made against Neel was about the Sweden Visa Scam of 2005-06. Nishant claimed that in 2005-06 Patel ran a fake job scam in which he promised jobs in Sweden. For that, he took hefty fees from every individual who had applied. To complete the paperwork, he asked everyone to submit documents required for the work visa. He arranged fake documents, including fake passports for those who could not arrange the required documents. Nishant claimed that Patel had stayed in one Hotel Aaram near Ahmedabad for a few months and met people at the hotel itself.
Fake Swedish visa scam. Embassy had to finally put an advertisement in newspapers to warn people. He escaped from India after that pic.twitter.com/qHlQHE8O29— Nishant (@nishant_india) February 15, 2021
When he failed to secure a work visa for anyone, his clients demanded a refund for the payments they made. At that time, he allegedly threatened them that as they had submitted fake documents, they have committed fraud. To save themselves from any legal prosecution, no one filed a complaint against him. However, the Sweden government got a hint of what he was doing, and they issued an official statement in which they clarified that there were no such job offers for Sweden and people should not give money to anyone to secure a job in Sweden.
Scams in the United States
After the scam unveiled, Patel allegedly shifted to the United States. Nishant further alleged that during that time period Bitcoins were gaining popularity. Neel found an opportunity in the market and started investing in Bitcoins. He joined several groups and talked to people worldwide while presenting himself as an expert in the market. After spending some time in the groups, he slowly started luring people for his new venture named Pennytraders.
Abimanyu alleged that Patel told people that he had installed scalpers that collect scraps of bitcoins and promised profit worth USD 5 to USD 10 or even more to the investors. He used the same template everywhere. He allegedly gave a return to a few influential people in the beginning who promoted him and showed how they made money with Patel’s help. When hundreds of people joined his scheme, and he collected enough money, Pennytraders was closed abruptly.
Autotrader – the trading scam
Abhimanyu further explained how Patel lured people into his new venture Autotrader in which he allegedly gave trials to people. When they were convinced, they started adding money into his application for trading. At one point a man invested USD 17,500 in Autotrader. After some time his profits reached to USD 50,000. Due to some family emergency, when that investor tried to withdraw the money, it never went through.
Nishant said when people say that they may never get the money back, they forgot about the profit and started working on getting a refund of the original amount. It took months for them to receive refunds, and several investors are still waiting for the refunds. The person who was trying to withdraw money for the family emergency could only get it back allegedly after one high profile individual got involved. A few months ago, a petition was also filed against Patel on Change.org.
The Bitcell scam
The alleged Bitcell scam was an interesting venture by Patel. He claimed that people could lease Bitcoin by giving only 20% of the cost of Bitcoin and earn profits. At that time, Bitcoin’s price was rising at its all-time high. In this scam, another person identified as Suhel Khan was involved. Nishant alleged that Khan had some Congress connections too and is a Gujarat based businessman.
The alleged theft of Twitter ID of a band
Nishant alleged that Patel stole a band’s official Twitter handled before 2020 and started using it with his own name. The name of the band was Night Terrors of 1927. In January 2020, one of the band members approached Twitter and asked them to reclaim the account, but he could not succeed.
Corona lockdown became an opportunity for Patel
Nishant and Abhimanyu claimed that when lockdown happened in India in March 2020, Patel saw an opportunity and invested lakhs of Rupees in the name of charity and helping people in need. He allegedly made his image of a successful trader and businessman who do social work. He got in touch with several nationalists including Major Punia and several others who believed his stories.
NaradPay, Squeaks and iPhone scam
Nishant said that once he gained the trust of the nationalists, he allegedly formulated another scam on Twitter. He offered iPhones, Samsung Phones, tablets and other gadgets for free as Diwali gift. Everyone was free to avail the offer, and all they needed to pay was shipping fees. Nishant alleged that almost 8000 gadgets were sold out of which only a few hundreds were delivered. He claimed that he is a partner with Apple which Nishant alleged is a fake claim.
Nishant said that when someone ordered any gadget via his social media application, he gained access to the gallery and copied all content, including personal photographers without any intimation. When someone tried to expose him on Twitter or any social media platform, Patel allegedly used sensitive personal photographs to shut their voices. Some people did try to expose him, but they never got the response they should have got from the social media platform. On the other hand, Patel allegedly sent a troll army to send threats to those who tried to expose him.
Whoever has downloaded the Squeaks social media app, have unfortunately been hacked. You yourself gave access to your gallery while installing the app. But hacking ones private pics, is already a serious crime.— Nishant (@nishant_india) February 15, 2021
Here is a screenshot of him, openly flaunting his hacking. pic.twitter.com/h0VeTHZtLk
Patel also claimed that his relative is associated with BJP and his father was PM Modi’s classmate. If Patel is to believe, he has to deliver over 8000 gadgets which will cost him over Rs.40 crore. Nishant alleged that Patel does not have this kind of funds and will never be able to fulfil the promises he made.
He says that Modi ji comes to his house and pays often visits.— Nishant (@nishant_india) February 15, 2021
He also claims that his family has been associated with the BJP for long. But upon my investigation inside his village, I came to know that none of his family members are either associated with the BJP pic.twitter.com/5tMgnwSGGf
The warehouse address that Patel gave was also fake. Nishant said that when they sent someone to verify the address, they found that it was the office of an IT company. The owner of the IT company claimed that he had attended over 20 people who came to inquire about the whereabouts of Patel.
The egyaan scam
Another scam Patel allegedly ran was of egyaan. He offered classes to people in which he would teach them how to trade in the market. In return, he had charged as high as Rs.45,000 from every person. Around 800-900 people joined his classes. When people started to realize there is no benefit from his sessions, they started to demand a refund. Anyone who demanded refund was allegedly kicked out from the groups.
The Sqeakscoin scam
Patel launched his own cryptocurrency by the name of Squeakscoin. He offered every coin for Rs.132,000. To promote his currency, he offered to buy one get one free offer with every coin. He also offered a referral bonus for everyone who brought more members to the scheme. In reality, according to Abhimanyu, Squeakscoin has no encryption based on blockchain. He further said that what the buyer gets is an over-priced graphic image and nothing else.
During this scam, Patel alleged made several crores. Nishant was able to access details of only one account in which Patel had received over Rs.9 crore out of which around Rs.9 crore were already withdrawn and the balance was mere few lakh rupees. It is unclear how much money Patel made out of this scam.
Squeaks coin scam. Cryptocurrency coin sold for 1,32,750 ₹. All people got was the world’s most expensive jpeg. Has collected over 9 Crore ₹ in 1 account alone.— Nishant (@nishant_india) February 15, 2021
ye @nto1927 ke liye ki humare paas har chij kaa access hai
kanhaan se paise aaye knhaan gaye pic.twitter.com/Dlplhz7eXc
Every time someone pressurized Patel to return their money, he duped someone else and paid their investment to old investors. He kept scamming people for years by circulating money from one person to another. Nishant further alleged that While successfully running several scams, Patel saved credit card information of his clients and used these details to pay-off those who pressurized him to return their money. As per Nishant, Patel had some cases filed against him in the US for the alleged fraud.
Credit card fraud case in USA. Used somebody else’s credit card for a large sum of money.— Nishant (@nishant_india) February 15, 2021
Case against Hitesh Patel Aka Neel Patel in Louisville USA
jab ekdum paise kam pad jate hai to logon ki illegally store ki hui credit card ko charge karta tha
(in USA no OTP required) pic.twitter.com/aqYd2jRCv1
The account Nishant was able to access was in the name of Patel’s parents. It is unclear if they know what their son is allegedly doing.
Suhel Khan’s side of the story
OpIndia contacted Suhel Khan to learn his side of the story. Suhel said that he was associated with Patel only till 2018. When he stopped working with Patel due to health issues, many clients were waiting for payments or refunds. Khan said that in the screenshots which were in the thread were used he was just explaining how to punch PIN codes to withdraw funds. Khan repeatedly claimed he never intended to dupe anyone.
In 2020, Patel again contacted Khan and asked him if he wanted to join in selling cryptocurrency. Khan said he asked him to first refund the money of every person from previous businesses and only then he will think of working on anything new. Khan who had served in Air Force for 23 years and currently working as a contractor running his own drilling company, claimed that he is only in contact with Neel to make sure whoever has any pending refunds get their money back.
Khan further added that he was shocked to see his name in the thread as he never lied to anyone and even he gave his Bitcoin to Patel for trading which he never returned. Khan also said that while there are speculations that he is associated with any political party, in reality, he has no connection with Congress, BJP or any other political party.
Neel Patel’s explanation
Neel Patel (Nto1927) posted a video on YouTube explaining his side of the story. In the video, he tried to clarify a lot of allegations.
Neel has alleged that what Nishant and Abhimanyu tried to show does not prove any allegations against him. They have no proof whatsoever, and the screenshots they have provided are allegedly not authentic. He said, “Those who lie, place allegations and walk away. Those who are innocents have to prove that the allegations are wrong.”
Neel further said that no one should trust him based on the explanation he gave, but everyone should listen to the both sides and then decide who is right and who is wrong. He further claimed that if anyone can prove that he is wrong, he would face the consequences.
“Don’t blame the innocent”- said, Neel
Neel said that everyone is targeting those who have RTed, replied or had contact with him at some point in time including Major Punia, Nupur Sharma from OpIndia and others. He said if the expose is about him, there is no need to drag others in the process. Neel further said that anyone except Sunaina Holey never had any financial transactions with him. He has never paid anything to anyone, and these people should not be dragged into the controversy.
Neel said that he had paid Sunaina 2 lakh in total for the work she has done for him. No one else that is being targeted ever got any money from him. Some people from RW have RTed his tweets, but those were not promotional RTs, and those people were only promoting his made-in-India venture.
Clarification about Suhel Khan
Neel said that it was unnecessary to bring the name of an ex-Air Force officer in the expose. He further added that Suhel is neither from Gujarat, nor he has any connection to any political party, including Congress. In his alleged expose, Nishant had claimed Suhel is somehow connected to the Congress Party.
Clarification over the Twitter handle
Neel said that when he got the ID, it was available. He claimed that he is not sure how old tweets were recovered, but he has decided to drop his previous ID, and if he ever comes back to Twitter, he would use a new ID. He claimed that he has already contacted Twitter for a new ID.
Allegations of citizenship and travel to India
Neel said that he holds an Indian passport. He is living in the US, but he is still using an Indian passport. Nishant had alleged that Neel never came back to India after 2006 which Neel said is misinformation. Neel showed immigration stamps on his passport in the video that included three visits to India in 2008, 2011 and 2013. He also showed stamps of other countries including Singapore, Uganda (where his father’s business was located), UAE, Kenya, Canada, Malaysia and other locations. Neel also claimed that he got his business transferred from Singapore to Canada.
Reply to allegations of fake job offers in Sweden
Nishant, in his expose, had put up an advisory from the Swedish embassy in India that warns people about the alleged job scams. Neel said that the screenshot Nishant shared was not for Neel. He further added that such advisories are issued by every embassy that has an office in India as such scams are common in the immigration business.
Neel said that as Nishant has claimed he duped over 700 people in a job scam. If Nishant can bring only seven in front of the camera, he would be ready to face the consequences. Neel said it is practically impossible to shut the voice of 700+ people who got duped by someone. Neel further added that it is hard to believe that such a scam happened and there was no FIR or news reports.
Allegations over political connections
Neel said he never claimed his father was MLA. However, his uncle, late Vitthalbhai Somdas Patel, was three time-MLA from Kalol Assembly in Gujarat. He said as VS Patel is no longer with them, how could he take his name and threaten anyone stating his political connections. While talking about his father, Neel said that his father is a trustee in around 30 organizations that help poor and old people.
Who provided information to Nishant and Abhimanyu?
Neel said that the information provided to Nishant and Abhimanyu was from one Prabhakar Thapa who is from Germany. He further said that he is in the same business as Neel and often tries to hurt his reputation. He also alleged that it is Thapa who often scam people. Neel further alleged that Thapa created a ‘toolkit’ to show him in a bad light with fake screenshots which no one can authenticate.
Neel claimed that a day before the allegations were put in place against him, Thapa had contacted him and tried to extort $5000. The screenshots are available on Neel’s Twitter profile.
Neel said that Thapa had contacted him to get his funds cleared in PennyRobot. He had issued a cheque of $20,000, but that could not be cleared as he never received the social security number of the payee. He said for his own safety, he cannot issue such a large amount to anyone without knowing where the money is going.
Reply to the Bitcell and PennyRobot
Neel said that he is a broker and people give him money to invest. While trading everyone, including the broker, may face losses. He invests money and gives profits to his clients. If someone had asked for a withdrawal, based on the market conditions, he had approved the withdrawal at the earliest. He said that in the Bitcell group, there are no negative reviews. Neel further claimed that anyone is welcome to check his group.
For PennyRobot, he said that he has so far approved withdrawals worth thousands of dollars. He claimed as he did not process any transaction without a paper trail, he can provide a list of all the withdrawals with transaction details anytime.
Allegations over Squeakscoin
Neel, while answering the allegations related to Squeakcoin said he is not sure if Nishant has any knowledge of Blockchain technology. He showed his panel in Etherscan where he has two accounts, one by the name of Squeakscoin which has not been launched yet and second by the name of Squeaks Tokens. Neel claimed that anyone could verify the existence of Squeaks Token on Etherscan as it is a verified ERC-20 token.
Neel further claimed that Ref Wayne, a famous forex investor who also held zoom discussion with Neel for his students, has promised to invest 87 million in Squeaks. Neel added that he does not need to do any scams if he has such investments lined up.
Allegations of court cases against him and his wife
While talking about the alleged cases against him, Neel said that Nishant should show proof of cases that he had mentioned in his video. He said there was a tax case registered against him from 2015 which he contested and won in the court. Neel further added that every case against some Hitesh Patel is not against him as there are other Hitesh Patels too.
Also, he said that Nishant should not have dragged his wife’s name in the alleged expose. Neel has asked Nishant to show the FIR that was allegedly registered against his wife. He further added that he had initiated legal action against Nishant and Abhimanyu for defaming his wife’s name.
The infamous iPhone scam
Neel said that he is ready to pay for Nishant’s flight ticket to Gandhinagar where he can visit his office and confirm how many phones he had sent so far. Neel showed an excel sheet and claimed only four phones are pending to be sent. He said he got over 5,000 orders which he had already filled. While talking about the pending 193 tablets and the tablets that were sent but of low quality, Neel said that he was at fault for choosing the wrong company for Tablets.
Neel said that he had given two options to the buyers that either they can donate the tablets to some NGO and wait for two months to get good quality tablets or they can donate the tablets to NGO and request refunds. Neel claimed that whoever asked for a refund got the money back. As the alleged expose is making rounds of social media, some people have claimed they did not get iPhones, but in reality, they never ordered. If there is any iPhone pending, the person can send Neel proof of purchase or choose to file an FIR against him. Neel further added that no one would come forward for legal action as there are no pending orders. He also mentioned that he would soon send the pending laptops too.
Neel said that he has 19 lakh pending funds with him and if anyone feels he has scammed them can file a case against him, but it is not correct to spread misinformation in the name of expose. Neel said that if had duped thousands of people, why someone has not yet filed any case against him.
Neel Patel also rejected allegations that he had access to any personal photographs of those who installed his app on their phones.