Nine former Sprint employees have been charged with accessing thousands of customer accounts to make millions of dollars worth of illegal calls, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced.
The scammers, who worked in Sprint stores in New York, New Jersey and Florida, were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft for their alleged roles in a $15 million cell phone cloning scheme.
According to the complaint, the defendants tapped into Sprint's computer network to steal confidential cell phone information from thousands of the carrier's customers. The nine defendants accessed customer accounts more than 16,000 times, using customer information to create "clones" of the customers' cell phones.
The cloned cell phone clones were then used to make unauthorized calls, usually just days after they broke into the defrauded customer's account. The fraudsters made approximately $15 million worth of calls, including a large amount of international calls.
The scheme began to unravel when some of the defendants were caught accessing customer accounts on in-store cameras, the complaint said. Sprint has since credited its defrauded customers for the value of the calls.
"The defendants arrested today allegedly breached our everyday telecommunications system to obtain information used clone the cell phones of thousands of unsuspecting customers," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "Fraud was allegedly their calling card to the tune of $15 million. We intend to prosecute these defendants and others who would undermine and exploit these essential services to the full extent of the law."
The alleged identity thieves are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which caries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, access device fraud, which caries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory minimum penalty of two years in prison, which must run consecutively to all other counts of conviction.
"Sprint regularly monitors and works aggressively to identify and respond to fraudulent activity,'' said Jason Gertzen, a Sprint spokesman told the Wall Street Journal. "The company has been assisting authorities in this case. "As this is an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate for Sprint to comment further at this time."
Sprint employees charged in $15 million cell phone scam