A Los Angeles jury found a former T-Mobile retail store owner guilty of using stolen credentials to unlock “hundreds of thousands of cell phones” between 2014 and 2019.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) said in a report that Argishti Khudaverdyan, 44, earned about $25 million from the scheme, which involved stealing T-Mobile employee credentials and illegally accessing the company’s internal computer systems to illegally “unlock” ” and “unlock” the phone. Monday’s statement.
Between August 2014 and June 2019, he was found to have fraudulently accessed the credentials of more than 50 employees and used them to unlock phones from “Sprint, AT&T, and other carriers.”
During this time, cell phone companies like T-Mobile “locked” customers’ phones so they could only be used on the company’s network until the customer’s contract for calls and services was fulfilled.
Phones must be “unlocked” to switch to a different carrier, and carriers also “block” phones to protect consumers in the event of a lost or stolen phone.
“Unlocking allows phones to be sold on the black market and deprives T-Mobile customers of T-Mobile’s service, thereby depriving T-Mobile of revenue generated from customer service contracts and equipment installment plans,” the DOJ said.
The indictment alleges that the 44-year-old obtained employee credentials through dishonest means, such as sending phishing emails of seemingly legitimate T-Mobile communications and deceiving people at the T-Mobile IT help desk.
Khudaverdyan also earned a T‑Mobile employee certification to work with others in overseas call centers.
He then used the information to access T-Mobile systems to target higher-level employees by collecting their personally identifiable information.
Armed with this data, he called the T-Mobile IT help desk to reset the employee’s company password, giving him unauthorized access to the T-Mobile system to unlock and unlock the phone.
“In all, Khudaverdyan and others stole and stole more than 50 different T-Mobile employee credentials from employees across the United States who unlocked and unlocked hundreds of thousands of phones during the program,” the DOJ said.
“Khudaverdyan earned more than $25 million through these criminal activities. He used the illicit proceeds to pay for things like real estate in Burbank and Northridge,” the statement said.
The DOJ said he marketed his unlocking service via email, brokers and websites, telling customers that the fraudulent unlocks he was offering were “official” T-Mobile unlocks.
Khudaverdyan could face at least two years in prison for “aggravated identity theft” and up to 165 years for charges related to wire fraud, money laundering and unauthorized computer access.
His sentencing is scheduled for October 17.