Pakistani jailed in US for $ 200million cell phone fraud



WASHINGTON: A US court sentenced a Pakistani man to 12 years in prison for illegally unlocking cell phones, costing US company AT&T $ 200 million.

According to the US Attorney’s Office in Seattle, Mohammad Fahd, 35, of Karachi played a “leading role in a seven-year plan to illegally unlock phones to defraud AT&T.”

AT & T’s forensic analysis, cited in the official statement, shows that Fahd and his co-conspirator have unlocked as many as 1,900,033 phones. This cost the company $ 201,497,430 and 94 cents over seven years.

During the sentencing hearing, US District Judge Robert S. Lasnik noted that Fahd had committed “terrible cybercrime over a long period of time,” even after knowing that law enforcement was watching him.

Fahd started his scam in 2012 and conspired with others to recruit AT&T employees at a call center in Bothell, WA to unlock large numbers of cell phones for lucrative.

Fahd illegally unlocked phones to defraud AT&T

Fahd recruited and bribed AT&T employees to use their AT&T credentials to unlock the phones of ineligible customers. Later, Fahd bribed employees to install malware and custom hacking tools that allowed him to unlock phones remotely from Pakistan. In September 2020, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud.

“This defendant is a modern day cybercriminal who combined his technological expertise with old school techniques such as bribery, intimidation and exploitation to lead a criminal organization causing $ 200 million in losses,” said Acting American lawyer Tessa M. Gorman.

“And the damage wasn’t just financial. Unfortunately, he persuaded and pressured young people into engaging in criminal behavior, spreading the damage of his greedy scheme to others.

Cell phones cost hundreds of dollars, but US companies subsidize the cost of purchase if customers also buy their service. The companies also offer phones to potential customers as part of installment plans. Unlocking a phone effectively removes it from a network, allowing the account holder to go to a cheaper service provider without paying down payments and other fees included in the contract.

A statement released by the Seattle District Attorney’s Office, between June and July 2012, Fahd contacted an AT&T employee via Facebook, using the pseudonym “Frank Zhang”. He offered the employee large sums of money if he helped him secretly unlock phones at AT&T.

Fahd also asked the employee to recruit other AT&T employees to help him with the unauthorized unlocks.

“Fahd needed additional AT&T employees to join the program because he wanted someone to always be available to expand his ability to perform unauthorized unlocks,” the attorney’s office said.

Fahd also asked the recruited employees to set up bogus businesses and bank accounts to receive payments. He urged them to issue fictitious invoices for every deposit made to bogus business bank accounts in order to make the money appear to be payment for real services.

In the spring of 2013, AT&T implemented a new unlocking system that made it more difficult for bribed employees to unlock phones for Fahd. In response, Fahd hired a software developer to design malware that could be installed without permission on AT & T’s computer system to unlock phones more efficiently and in greater numbers.

At Fahd’s request, employees provided him with confidential information about AT & T’s computer system and unlocking procedures to help him with this process.

Fahd also instructed employees to install malware on AT&T computers that captured information on AT&T’s computer system and the network access credentials of other AT&T employees. Fahd provided the information to its malware developer, so the developer could tailor the malware to run on AT&T computers.

Judge Lasnik ordered the restitution of $ 200,620,698. The difference between this amount and the total loss reflects restitution ordered against corrupt AT&T employees in related lawsuits.

Fahd was indicted in 2017 and arrested in Hong Kong in 2018. He was extradited and appeared in Seattle US District Court in August 2019. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud in September 2020 .

Posted in Dawn, September 21, 2021



Comments are closed.