Former owner of T-Mobile's Eagle Rock retail store, 44-year-old Argishti Khudaverdyan of Burbank, has been found guilty by a jury on 14 federal criminal charges in a $25 million fraud scheme, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
He enriched himself by stealing the credentials of T-Mobile employees and using illegal access to the company's internal computer, he used systems to illegally “unlock” mobile phones.
Argishti Khudaverdyan, a US resident of Armenian origin, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud, two counts of accessing a computer to fraud and obtain valuables, one count of knowingly accessing a computer without permission to obtaining information, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, five counts of money laundering, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
A jury returned a guilty verdict on July 29 evening in United States District Court .
According to evidence presented during the four-day trial, Khudaverdyan ran a multi-year scheme to illegally unlock and hack mobile phones, which generated approximately $25 million in criminal proceeds. During this time, most mobile phone companies, including T-Mobile, “locked” their customers' phones so that they can only be used on the company's network until customers' phone and service contracts are completed. If customers wanted to switch to another carrier, their phones had to be “unlocked”. Carriers have also “locked” cell phones to protect consumers in case their mobile phones are lost or stolen.
From August 2014 to June 2019, the entrepreneur offered customers to officially unblock a locked smartphone so that it would work with SIM cards from other operators. He fraudulently unlocked mobile phones on the T-Mobile network, as well as on the networks of Sprint, AT&T and other carriers. The removal of the unlock allowed phones to be sold on the black market and allowed T-Mobile customers to stop using T-Mobile's services and thereby deprive T-Mobile of the revenue generated from customer service contracts and installment plans for equipment.
Khudaverdyan advertised their fraudulent unlock services through brokers, email inquiries and websites such as unlocks247.com. He falsely claimed that the fraudulent unlocks he provided were “official” T-Mobile unlocks.
From January 2017 to June 2017, Khudaverdyan and a former business partner also co-owned Top Tier Solutions Inc., a T-Mobile store in Eagle Rock Plaza. However, after T-Mobile terminated Khudaverdyan's contract in June 2017 due to his suspicious behavior on the computer and connection with unauthorized unlocking of mobile phones, Khudaverdyan continued to scam.
In order to gain unauthorized access to T-Mobile's secure internal computers, Khudaverdyan obtained the credentials of T-Mobile employees through various dishonest means, including sending phishing emails that appeared to be legitimate T-Mobile correspondence. Khudaverdyan used fraudulent emails to force T-Mobile employees to log in with their credentials so he could get employee information and fraudulently unlock phones.
While working with others in overseas call centers, Khudaverdyan also obtained T-Mobile employee credentials, which he then used to access T-Mobile systems to target higher-level employees, collecting personal information from those employees and calling the IT department. T-Mobile support. He reset employees' corporate passwords, which gave him unauthorized access to T-Mobile's systems, allowing him to unlock cell phones.
In total, Khudaverdyan and his accomplices compromised and stole the credentials of more than 50 different T-Mobile employees in the United States, and unlocked hundreds of thousands of mobile phones over the years of the criminal scheme.
Khudaverdyan received more than $25 million. He used these illegal proceeds to pay for, among other things, real estate in Burbank and Northridge.
U.S. District Judge Stephen W. Wilson has set a sentencing hearing for October 17, at which Khudaverdyan will be sentenced to 20 years in federal prison on each count of fraud, 20 years in federal prison for money laundering conspiracy, and 10 years in federal prison for each count of money laundering, five years in federal prison for each count of intentionally accessing a computer without permission to obtain information, five years in federal prison for accessing a computer for the purpose of fraud and obtaining valuables, and a mandatory two years in federal prison for aggravated identity theft.
Alain Garehbaglou, 43, of La Cañada Flintridge, a co-defendant and former co-owner of Top Tier Solutions Inc., pleaded guilty on July 5 to three felony charges: conspiracy to committing fraud using electronic means of communication, access to a secure computer for the purpose of fraud mischief and conspiracy to launder money. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for December 5.
The US Secret Service Cyber Fraud Task Force (CFTF) in Los Angeles and the IRS Western Cybercrime Investigation Unit were investigating the case.