AT&T Workers Bribed to Unlock Millions of Customer Phones

A Pakistani man has been charged with multiple offenses after allegedly bribing AT&T staff to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars to help him fraudulently unlock two million customer mobile phones.

Muhammad Fahd, 34, was arrested in Hong Kong in February 2018 and extradited to the US last Friday. He’s charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 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.

He is alleged to have bribed staff at the US telco giant over a five-year period ending in 2017, paying one individual as much as $428,500. Three have so far pleaded guilty to their involvement.

“Initially, Fahd allegedly would send the employees batches of international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) numbers for cell phones that were not eligible to be removed from AT&T’s network. The employees would then unlock the phones,” explained a DoJ news statement.

“After some of the co-conspirators were terminated by AT&T, the remaining co-conspirator employees aided Fahd in developing and installing additional tools that would allow Fahd to use the AT&T computers to unlock cell phones from a remote location.”

This effectively meant installing malware and unauthorized hardware on AT&T’s network so he could sell phone unlocking services to the general public, depriving the telco “of the stream of payments that were due under the service contracts and instalment plans,” according to the indictment.

Another co-conspirator, Ghulam Jiwani, was also arrested in Hong Kong but died before he could be extradited to the US. Fahd is facing a maximum of 20 years behind bars if found guilty.

“This defendant thought he could safely run his bribery and hacking scheme from overseas, making millions of dollars while he induced young workers to choose greed over ethical conduct,” said US attorney Brian Moran. “Now he will be held accountable for the fraud and the lives he has derailed.”

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