$200M Lost in Illegal Phone Unlocking Scheme
A Pakistani Fraudster Received 12 Years in Prison After Coordinating a Seven-Year Scheme Causing AT&T to Lose $200M.
12 years in prison was the sentence that a Pakistani fraudster received after he and his co-conspirators coordinated a seven-year scheme that led to the fraudulent unlocking of almost 2 million phones from the AT&T ntework.
Muhammad Fahd was the scheme leader and the mind behind the malicious operation as he bribed AT&T employees to help him in the scheme. The employees were unlocking phones, giving him access to their credentials, and installing malware that gave him remote access to the mobile carrier’s servers.
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.
Later in the conspiracy, Fahd had the bribed employees install custom malware and hacking tools that allowed him to unlock phones remotely from Pakistan.
Fahd recruited AT&T employees and used them as insiders. He was bribing them with hundreds of thousands of dollars in order for them to remove the protection provided by AT&T that locked cellular phones to its network.
The malicious actor had to hire a malware developer in order to be able to design malicious tools when AT&T created and deployed a new unlocking system that prevented corrupt employees from continuing unlocking phones on his behalf.
The malware was deployed in the company network and started collecting information to create additional malware.
The info gathered was then used by the fraudsters to remotely “process fraudulent and unauthorized unlock requests” from Pakistan.
Fahd and his co-conspirators used multiple shell companies in order to be able to cover up any illegal activity.
AT&T discovered that the scheme’s conspirators illegally unlocked 1,900,033 cellular phones, resulting in $201,497,430.94 in lost payments.
The company has also filed a lawsuit against former employees who were fired soon after it was discovered that they had been bribed into illegally unlocking phones and installing malware and malicious tools on the company’s network.
We’re seeking damages and injunctive relief from several people who engaged in a scheme a couple of years ago to illegally unlock wireless telephones used on our network.
It’s important to note that this did not involve any improper access of customer information, or any adverse effect on our customers.
In 2018 Fahd was arrested in Hong Kong and he was extradited to the US in 2019. Here he was in jail until he was recently sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in September 2020.
At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik for the Western District of Washington noted that Fahd had committed a ‘terrible cybercrime over an extended period,’ even after he was aware that law enforcement was investigating.