Three former AT&T employees are alleged to have participated in an unlock scheme, allowing thousands of cell phones to function on any wireless network.
The telecommunications corporation has filed a complaint against Marc Sapatin, Nguyen Lam, and Kyra Evans, who had been co-workers at an AT&T call center from Washington D.C.
It was there that they purportedly served as accomplices to Prashant Vira, who owns and runs Swift Unlocks. The company specializes in unlocking cellphones in exchange for a fee and operates in Anaheim, California.
According to AT&T representatives, in 2013 Evans received a $20,000 bribe from Vira to create, install and run malware programs on the company’s protected computer network. Sapatin also received more than $10,500 for the same purpose, it has been suggested.
He also is believed to have tried to engage other members of the staff in this scheme. As the provider’s complaint states, Sapatin promised other employees that they would earn $2,000 every two weeks, just for downloading the malicious software and allowing it to run in the background on the computers.
No sums of money were circulated in Lam’s case, but he is also believed to have been involved in the operation, which was performed fraudulently and without any authorization.
The malware program allowed the group to submit automated requests and unlock hundreds of thousands of mobile phones. This was performed by gaining access to “confidential and proprietary information regarding AT&T’s internal applications and computer systems”.
A vast number of the unlocked devices are claimed to have been resold at a later date, and have been suggested to have helped reward those involved in the the scheme. It must however be noted that no private information pertaining to customers has been disclosed while the operation was conducted.
AT&T has a particularly strict policy against the practice of unlocking, which gives users the possibility to run any compatible SIM card on their device, regardless of the network operator.
The wireless service provider rejects requests from post-paid subscribers who haven’t completed their contract period. The only solution in such cases is paying an early contract termination fee of $195.
The lawsuit was filed in September at the U.S. District Court in Seattle, Washington, and the accused have a period of 21 days to initiate a response against the charges.
According to Marty Richter, the company’s spokesperson, AT&T is seeking damage and injunctive relief, consisting in any lost profits, the amounts received as bribes, plus interest.
It is uncertain if the defendants may have to serve prison time if proven guilty: although the complaint doesn’t refer to any criminal fraud, one of the accusations it lists is a matter of criminal law.
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