A man, former owner of a T-Mobile shopis accused of unlocking hundreds of thousands of mobile phones operator T-Mobile, as well as Sprint, AT&T and others. Using a set of tailored tactics, he would have been able to earn approx 25 million dollars in few years.
Argishti Khudawardyana former owner of a T-Mobile store, is accused – and a jury allegedly found him guilty – of having used stolen credentials to unlock “hundreds of thousands of cell phones” from August 2014 to June 2019. According to a press release from the Justice Department and an indictment filed earlier this year, Khudaverdyan earned about 25 million dollars from the scheme, which also provided for the bypass of operator locks for lost or stolen mobile phones.
For years, he has reportedly used various tactics to acquire the T-Mobile employee credentials needed to unlock phones. These included phishing, social engineering, and even convincing the operator’s IT department to reset their superiors’ passwords, giving them access. The Justice Department states that had access to the credentials of over 50 employees and having used them to unlock phones from “Sprint, AT&T and other operators”.
According to the indictment, Khudaverdyan was able to access T-Mobile’s unlocking tools over the internet until 2017. After the operator moved them to his internal network, Khudaverdyan allegedly used the stolen credentials to log into that network. via Wi-Fi in T-Mobile stores.
The Justice Department says Khudaverdyan co-owned a T-Mobile store called Top Tier Solutions Inc for a few months in 2017, even though the operator ended up terminating the store’s contract due to suspicious behavior. In fact, the other co-owner, Alen Gharehbagloo, was also accused of fraud and illegal access to computer systems and pleaded guilty.
According to the release, Khudaverdyan allegedly marketed its unlocking services via email and various websites, telling customers that they were official T-Mobile services.
The approximately 25 million dollars, as the indictment reports, would have been used in several purchases, including one property in California; a $ 32,000 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch and a Land Rover. Gharehbagloo and Khudaverdyan are accused of renting a Mercedes-Benz S 63 AMG and a Ferrari 458 respectively. A Rolex Sky-Dweller was also seized in one of the properties.
Khudaverdyan, as The Verge reports, is not the only person who has had problems with the law for unlocking devices or otherwise circumventing the limits imposed by manufacturers. Last year, one man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for unlocking around 2 million AT&T phones and another recently bargained for 5 years for his role in a company that sold mod per Nintendo Switch.
Khudaverdyan faces at least two years in prison for aggravated identity theft and up to 165 years for counts related to telematic fraud, money laundering, unauthorized access to a computer for a total of 14 charges. The hearing is set for October 17 this year.
In general, these types of crimes are quite common, as operators like T-Mobile block cell phones by limiting what customers can do with their devices. Obviously the services that Khudaverdyan offered were illegal, but it would be difficult for these people to create profitable and shady businesses if the operator T-Mobile and others made unlocking cell phones much easiermaybe only in certain situations.
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