PAKISTANI MAN PAID $1 MILLION TO AT&T EMPLOYEES TO ILLEGALLY UNLOCK CELL PHONES
A 34-year-old citizen of Pakistan identified as Muhammad Fahd is alleged to have paid insiders at telecommunications giant AT&T to plant malware and otherwise misuse computer networks to unlock cellphones, was charged in a 14-count federal indictment. Muhammad paid one AT&T employee over $400,000.
Muhammad was arrested in Hong Kong on Feb. 4, 2018, at the request of the United States, and was extradited to the United States on Aug. 2, 2019. Muhammad faces many fraud charges.
Muhammad allegedly recruited and paid AT&T insiders in the United States to use their computer credentials and access to disable AT&T’s proprietary locking software that prevented ineligible phones from being removed from AT&T’s network. The scheme resulted in millions of phones being removed from AT&T service and/or payment plans, costing the company millions of dollars.
Some AT&T employees were paid to install compromised routers and Wi-Fi access points so that Muhammad could allegedly gain further entry into the AT&T’s computer systems.
Muhammad allegedly paid the insiders tens of thousands of dollars – paying one co-conspirator $428,500 over the five-year scheme.
According to the indictment, between 2012 and 2017, Muhammad recruited various AT&T employees to the conspiracy. Some early recruits were paid to identify other employees who could be bribed and convinced to join the scheme. So far, three of those co-conspirators have pleaded guilty, admitting they were paid thousands of dollars for facilitating Muhammad's alleged fraudulent scheme.
Initially, Muhammad allegedly would send the employees batches of international mobile equipment identity numbers for cell phones that were not eligible to be removed from AT&T’s network. The employees would then unlock the phones.
After some of the co-conspirators were terminated by AT&T, the remaining co-conspirator employees allegedly aided Muhammad in developing and installing additional tools that would allow him to use the AT&T computers to unlock cell phones from a remote location.
Muhammad and a second co-conspirator, who is now deceased, allegedly delivered bribes to the AT&T employees both in person and via payment systems such as Western Union.
Muhammad is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to violate the Travel Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, four counts of wire fraud, two counts of accessing a protected computer in furtherance of fraud, two counts of intentional damage to a protected computer, and four counts of violating the Travel Act.