Florida Man Pleads Guilty to Participating in Sophisticated International Cellphone Fraud Scheme
A Miami Gardens, Florida, resident pleaded guilty today to multiple criminal charges in connection with a sophisticated global cell phone fraud scheme that involved compromising cellphone customers’ accounts and “cloning” their phones to make fraudulent international calls.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida and Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office made the announcement.
Edwin Fana, 37, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, access device fraud, the use, production or possession of modified telecommunications instruments, and the use or possession of hardware or software configured to obtain telecommunications services. Fana also pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Sentencing will be scheduled for a later date before U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley of the Southern District of Florida.
According to the plea agreement, Fana and his co-conspirators participated in a scheme to steal access to and fraudulently open new cellphone accounts using the personal information of individuals around the United States. Fana admitted that the conspirators then trafficked in the cellphone customers’ telecommunication identifying information, using that data as well as other software and hardware to reprogram cellphones that they controlled to transmit thousands of international calls to Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and other countries with high calling rates. The calls were billed to the victims’ compromised accounts, he admitted.
Fana’s role in the scheme included operating a “call site” in his residence in Miami Gardens, according to the plea agreement. He admitted that he would receive telecommunication identifying information associated with victims’ accounts from his co-conspirators and use that data to re-program cellphones that he controlled. According to the plea agreement, Fana’s co-conspirators would then transmit international calls over the internet to Fana’s residence, where he would route them through the re-programmed cellphones. In October 2012, the FBI executed a search warrant on Fana’s residence and discovered approximately 88 cellphones connected to networking equipment and actively routing calls.
Fana admitted that law enforcement seized nearly 11,000 telecommunications identifying numbers from him and that the scheme caused at least $1 million in losses.
The FBI investigated the case, dubbed Operation Toll Free, which is part of the bureau’s ongoing effort to combat large-scale telecommunications fraud. Senior Counsel Matthew A. Lamberti of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared M. Strauss of the Southern District of Florida are prosecuting the case.