Mexican Businessman Admits to Brokering Spyware Used to Monitor Political and Business Rivals
Assistant U. S. Attorney Sabrina L. Fève (619) 546-6786
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – February 15, 2022
SAN DIEGO – Mexican businessman Carlos Guerrero pleaded guilty in federal court today, admitting that he conspired to sell and use hacking tools manufactured by private companies in Italy, Israel and elsewhere.
According to court documents, Guerrero owned and operated a consortium of U.S. and Mexican companies and brokered sales of interception and surveillance tools to Mexican government clients, as well as private and commercial customers. In 2014 and 2015, Guerrero worked primarily with an Italian company that sold hacking devices and geolocation tools. Through relationships developed at Guerrero’s direction, Guerrero’s company subsequently brokered the sale of interception devices and hacking services manufactured by Israeli and other companies.
In 2016 and 2017, for example, Guerrero marketed signal jammers, Wi-Fi interception tools, IMSI catchers, and the ability to hack WhatsApp messages to prospective clients in the U.S. and Mexico. Guerrero admitted to knowing that, in some cases, his Mexican government clients intended to use the interception equipment for political purposes, rather than for legitimate law enforcement purposes. In one case, he knowingly arranged for a Mexican mayor to gain unauthorized access to a political rival’s Twitter, Hotmail, and iCloud accounts. Guerrero also admitted that the hacking tools and technologies he brokered would be used for commercial and personal purposes by private clients.
For example, Guerrero himself used the equipment to intercept the phone calls of a U.S. rival while the rival was in both Southern California and Mexico, and Guerrero’s company arranged for a large Mexican business to intercept the phone and email accounts of a Florida-based sales representative in exchange for approximately $25,000.
“Today’s guilty plea helps stem the proliferation of digital tools used for repression and advances the digital security of both U.S. and Mexican citizens,” stated U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “This Office is committed to disrupting malicious cyber activities and mitigating unlawful surveillance.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team and Homeland Security Investigations for their excellent work on this case.
“With this guilty plea, we are sending a clear message that companies and individuals who unlawfully violate privacy rights will not be tolerated and they will be held accountable,” said Chad Plantz, Special Agent in Charge for HSI San Diego. “The world we live in is increasingly interconnected by technology meant to improve our lives, but as seen in this case, this same technology can be acquired by bad actors with harmful intentions. HSI and our law enforcement partners will remain committed to bringing to justice those who attempt to manipulate these platforms for nefarious purposes.”
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance provided by the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.
DEFENDANT Case Number 22cr0280-JLS
Carlos Guerrero Age: 48 Chula Vista, CA and Tijuana, Mexico
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Conspiracy – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 371 (to violate 18 U.S.C. §§ 2511(1)(a) and 2512(1)(b))
Maximum penalty: Five years in prison and $250,000 fine
Homeland Security Investigations