Criminal Justice News

Monday, December 12, 2016

New York City Resident Pleads Guilty to Participating in Sophisticated International Cellphone Fraud Scheme


A New York City resident pleaded guilty today in connection with a sophisticated global cellphone 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.

Farintong Calderon, 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.  Sentencing was set for Feb. 21, 2017, before Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley of the Southern District of Florida.

According to the plea agreement, Calderon 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.  Calderon formerly worked for Verizon Wireless installing cellphone towers and equipment and, after leaving his employer, moved to New York City and became involved in the fraud scheme as a “line” supplier.  Specifically, Calderon provided his co-conspirators with telecommunications identifying information associated with the accounts of customers of Verizon and other wireless companies.  His co-conspirators used that data—as well as other software and hardware—to reprogram cellphones that they controlled.  Calderon’s co-conspirators would then transmit thousands of international calls over the Internet through the re-programmed cellphones to Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and other countries with high calling rates.  The calls were billed to the customers’ compromised accounts.

In addition, Calderon admitted that, from approximately 2010 to 2013, he sent or received emails to co-conspirators with at least 1,408 combinations of telecommunication identifying information for specific cellphone devices or accounts belonging to persons around the United States, and was personally responsible for at least $250,000 in loss resulting from the scheme.

Calderon is the third defendant to plead guilty in the case.  Edwin Fana and Jose Santana previously pleaded guilty to similar charges in this matter.  Fana is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 22, 2016, and Santana is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 4, 2017.

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.

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