Rogue T-Mobile store owner found guilty of illegally unlocking phones in $25 million fraud

A former T-Mobile store owner was found guilty of breaking into the wireless provider’s internal system allowing the rogue businessman to unlock and unblock smartphones. The illegal activities took place from 2014 to 2019 when 44-year-old Argishti Khudaverdyan unlocked phones from T-Mobile and other carriers’ networks allowing those buying the handsets to use them with other network providers.

The scheme took in $25 million in ill-gotten revenue for the defendant and his partner

This hurt mobile carriers, many of which give huge discounts or give away free phones to customers who agree to be locked into their networks for years. Khudaverdyan also unlocked phones that carriers had blocked after they were reported stolen or lost. The guilty verdict was announced by the Department of Justice in a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

The 44-year-old, Khudaverdyan, who lives in Burbank, California, was found guilty last Friday of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud, two counts of accessing a computer to defraud and obtain value, one count of intentionally accessing a computer without authorization to obtain information, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, five counts of money laundering, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Prosecutors said during the trial that the scheme generated $25 million in illegally attained revenue as removing blocks on these phones allowed them to be sold on the black market. Khudaverdyan unlocked handsets that had been locked to T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint’s networks. He and a partner co-owned Top Tier Solutions Inc., a T-Mobile store in Eagle Rock Plaza, Los Angeles.

T-Mobile terminated the contract it had with Top Tier in 2017 because of Khudaverdyan’s suspicious behavior and unauthorized unlocking of phones. He advertised his illegally unlocked phones through brokers, email, and websites including “unlocks247.com.” While promoting the illegally unlocked phones, Khudaverdyan advertised them as being official unlocked T-Mobile phones.

Khudaverdyan will be sentenced on October 17th and could end up with a long stretch in jail

Unlocking these phones allowed T-Mobile customers to use other carriers costing the company revenue from service contracts and equipment installment plans. To access T-Mobile’s internal computer systems, Khudaverdyan tricked T-Mobile employees by using phishing emails to trick them into revealing information. These fake emails looked so much like legitimate T-Mobile correspondence that the employees passed along their sign-in credentials allowing the convicted felon to break into T-Mobile’s computers.
Khudaverdyan also elicited help from overseas call centers to receive employee credentials. Armed with this information, the bad actor then called the T-Mobile IT Help Desk to reset the employees’ company passwords. This gave him access to the T-Mobile systems that he used to unlock phones. More than 50 T-Mobile employees had their credentials stolen and hundreds of thousands of handsets were unlocked during the years that this scheme was active.

Sentencing will take place on October 17th and Khudaverdyan will face statutory maximum sentences of 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud count, 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering, 10 years in federal prison for each money laundering count, five years in federal prison for each count of intentionally accessing a computer without authorization to obtain information, five years in federal prison for the count of accessing a computer to defraud and obtain value, and a mandatory two years in federal prison for aggravated identity theft.

His partner and co-defendant, Alen Gharehbagloo, 43, of La Cañada Flintridge, already pleaded guilty on July 5th to to three felonies: conspiracy to commit wire fraud, accessing a protected computer with intent to defraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He will be sentenced on December 5th.


Source: phonearena.com

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