Pakistani man gets 12-years for unlocking AT&T phones

Unlocking your cellphone from any carrier can be a pain in the butt. Some carriers have made unlocking easier, but others are still stuck in their ways. This leads many users to third-party solutions to get their handsets unlocked.

According to AT&T Muhammad Fahd, 35, of Karachi, cost the company US$200 million by unlocking phones for users. AT&T says Mr. Fahd enlisted the help of an AT&T call center employee whom he contacted via Facebook to unlock phones using their credentials and his coworker’s credentials.

Unlocking the phones allowed customers to remove the carrier lock from the phones and potentially move to another carrier with that phone. AT&T does not allow unlocking phones until the phone is paid off or the contract is expired.

Fahd later had workers install malware on the company’s network, allowing him to unlock the phones from Pakistan. He persisted even after the company detected the initial scheme and fired two of the workers involved, prosecutors said.

Fahd sold the illegal phone-unlocking service through online retailers, raking in millions. His extravagant lifestyle included frequent trips abroad, $1,000-a-night hotel stays in Dubai and a $30,000 watch. He bragged of hiring the British singer-songwriter Jay Sean to play his wedding for $100,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.

He paid three AT&T workers $922,000 from 2012 to 2017 before he was arrested in Hong Kong in early 2018. More than 1.9 million phones were unlocked as part of the conspiracy, AT&T’s forensic analysis found.


Prosecutors in the case claim that the losses incurred by AT&T would be passed on to its customers at higher prices.