The Pakistani national Muhammad Fahd (35) was sentenced to 12 years of prison in the United States for his primary role in a seven-year scheme to illegally unlock nearly 2 million AT&T phones.
Fahd was the mind behind a criminal scheme that begun in 2012 and that caused more than $200 million in losses to the company, according to DoJ, he continued his activity even after he became aware that law enforcement was investigating.
The man and his accomplices recruited AT&T employees at a call center in Bothell, Washington, to unlock a large number of phones sold by the US telco company under installment plans.
Fahd contacted an employee at the company through Facebook using the alias “Frank Zhang.” He offered the employee important sums of money to secretly unlock phones at AT&T and recruit other AT&T employees.
The devices are provided by AT&T and can only be used through its network, but unlocking them was possible to use the phones also with the networks of other carriers.
In 2013, AT&T implemented a new system to monitor the activity of the employees, for this reason, the Pakistani man corrupted the employees to install malware and other tools on the infrastructure of the company to unlock the devices remotely.
“Beginning in 2012, Fahd, 35, conspired with others to recruit AT&T employees at a call center located in Bothell, Washington, to unlock large numbers of cellular phones for profit. Fahd recruited and bribed AT&T employees to use their AT&T credentials to unlock phones for ineligible customers.” reads the press release published by DoJ. “Later in the conspiracy, Fahd had the bribed employees install custom malware and hacking tools that allowed him to unlock phones remotely from Pakistan. In September 2020, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.”
The investigation conducted by AT&T allowed determining that 1,900,033 phones were illegally unlocked as part of the scheme. The company also estimated that the loss it suffered because customers, whose cellular phones were illegally unlocked, failed to complete payments for their cellular telephones was $201,497,430.94.
According to authorities, AT&T determined that more than 1.9 million phones were unlocked as part of the scheme, causing losses of over $200 million due to customers stopping to make payments for their phones.
Fahd was ordered to pay $200 million in restitution.
“Judge Lasnik ordered restitution of $200,620,698. (The difference between this amount and the total loss reflects restitution ordered against bribed AT&T employees in related prosecutions.)” concludes the DoJ. “This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Seattle field office of the U.S. Secret Service, IRS-CI and the U.S. Department of Justice. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance.”
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(SecurityAffairs – hacking, malware)