US court jails Pakistani for 12 yrs over $200mn mobile phone scam


A US court has sentenced a Pakistani to 12 years in prison for illegally unlocking mobile phones, which caused AT&T, the American telecommunications giant, to lose $200 million, Dawn news reported.

According to the US Attorney’s Office in Seattle, Mohammad Fahd, 35, of Karachi played a “leadership role in a seven-year scheme to unlawfully unlock phones to defraud AT&T”, reports Xinhua news agency.

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

At the sentencing hearing, US District Judge Robert S. Lasnik noted that Fahd had committed a “terrible cybercrime over an extended period”, even after he was aware that law enforcement was monitoring him, the report said.

Fahd began his scam in 2012 and conspired with others to recruit AT&T employees at a call centre 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, he bribed employees to 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 report said.

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