LOS ANGELES – A Downtown Los Angeles man was charged today in a six-count federal grand jury indictment for allegedly defrauding female social media influencers, including by engaging in “SIM swapping” to hijack their Instagram accounts and obtain money from them and engage in sexually explicit video chats with him.
Amir Hossein Golshan, 24, is charged with two counts of wire fraud, one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information, one count of accessing a computer to defraud and obtain value, one count of aggravated identity theft, and one count of threatening to damage a protected computer.
Golshan has been in federal custody since his arrest on a criminal complaint in this case on February 2. His arraignment is scheduled for Friday morning in United States District Court.
A Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) is a small, portable memory chip card that stores a cellphone user’s information and is used to authenticate cellphone subscribers.
“SIM swapping” is the process of fraudulently inducing a carrier to reassign a cellphone number from the legitimate subscriber or user’s SIM card to a SIM card controlled by another without the legitimate subscriber or user’s authorization.
According to the indictment and other court documents, from April 2019 to February 2023, Golshan schemed to defraud female social media influencers, models, and their friends on social media. Golshan allegedly accomplished his scheme by targeting social media influencers and causing the victims’ cell phone numbers to be SIM swapped. He allegedly did this by deceiving the victims’ phone carriers into transporting the victims’ cellphone number to a Golshan-controlled cellphone. Golshan then reset the password and codes for the victims’ social media accounts and caused them to be sent to a device he controlled, the indictment alleges.
Golshan then allegedly logged into the victims’ social media accounts, impersonated them to their online friends, and requested that the victims’ online friends send him money. Other times, Golshan allegedly extorted the victims for money and sexually explicit chats to return the victims’ social media accounts.
For example, in December 2021, a Los Angeles-based model and social media influencer identified in court documents as “Victim 1” received a direct message on Instagram from the account owned by one of her friends, stating, “Can you do me a favor? What’s your number?” Victim 1 provided her phone number to the person whom she believed was her friend.
Four hours later, Victim 1 noticed that her phone was no longer connecting to her cellphone network. She then received an email from her cellphone carrier stating that her account had been changed from her personal iPhone to a different iPhone that she did not recognize.
It took Victim 1 approximately two hours to regain control of her cellphone and she was unable to log into her Instagram account for one day because her password had been changed. During that time, Golshan allegedly hacked into Victim 1’s Instagram account, posed as Victim 1 and requested cellphone numbers and money from Victim’s friends, collecting approximately $15,000 in illicit gains in the process.
In another incident, Golshan allegedly SIM swapped another victim – identified in court papers as “Victim 3.” He allegedly took control of her Instagram account, changed its password, and demanded $5,000 from her. Golshan allegedly later told the victim that he would return her Instagram account to her if she initiated a video call and stripped for him.
Other times, Golshan allegedly engaged in other fraudulent schemes on social media. For example, Golshan lied to other Instagram users claiming that he could provide verified user badges on Instagram for a fee, the indictment states. Golshan allegedly then charged the victims hundreds of dollars each for verified badges, knowing that he could not provide the verified badges he purported to sell.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted of all charges, Golshan would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud count, up to five years in federal prison for each computer hacking-related count, and a mandatory two-year prison sentence for the aggravated identity theft count.
The FBI is investigating this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Andrew M. Roach of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section is prosecuting this case.