101 Indicted in Transnational Cell Phone Trafficking Conspiracy

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Phishing, mobile phone hacker or cyber scam concept. Password and login pass code in smartphone. Online security threat and fraud. Female scammer with cellphone and laptop. Bank account security.

SHERMAN, Texas – A federal grand jury in Sherman has returned a seven-count superseding indictment charging 101 individuals in a cell phone trafficking conspiracy in the Eastern District of Texas, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei today.

The superseding indictment was returned on August 11, 2021, and charges 101 individuals with conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce; interference with interstate commerce; use or brandishing of a firearm during a crime of violence; conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce; mail fraud conspiracy; wire fraud conspiracy; and money laundering conspiracy.  The superseding indictment remained sealed until this week.

According to the superseding indictment, members of a multi-layered criminal organization stole personal electronics, including cell phones, tablets, laptops, and smart watches, within the North Texas area and then exported those items overseas for resale.  As detailed in the superseding indictment, the defendants’ organization included runners, suppliers, device traffickers, and exporters.  The defendants are alleged to have stolen electronics by armed robberies as well as through various fraud schemes. 

The superseding indictment alleges that in late October 2020, a series of armed takeover-style robberies began to take place at AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon retail cell phone stores in the Dallas area. According to the superseding indictment, a total of 23 armed takeover robberies were committed or attempted at various retail cellular phone stores located in Dallas, Corinth, Balch Springs, Seagoville, Greenville, Colleyville, Flower Mound, Grand Prairie, Arlington, Houston, Fort Worth, and Garland.  The estimated loss associated with those robberies exceeds $500,000.


In December 2020, four members of the robbery crew were arrested following the armed robbery of an AT&T cell phone store in Fort Worth.  Investigation revealed that these individuals were connected to a cell phone business in Dallas known as Global One Wireless.  The owners of Global One Wireless – Plano brothers Abdul Basit Bhangda, 30, and Arsalan Bhangda, a/k/a Adam, 36 – allegedly acted through a parent corporation, RJ Telecom, to sell stolen products abroad by shipping the merchandise to foreign import companies located in the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong.

According to the superseding indictment, the conspirators also utilized compromised store employees to activate phones using fake identities or fraudulently adding lines to legitimate customer accounts.  Other schemes allegedly involved the use of fake identity information as well as legitimate customer information to swap SIM cards, enabling the defendants to verify banking information through text messages and withdraw funds from customer accounts.

The superseding indictment alleges that nearly $100 million of products were sold to foreign importers.  The investigation has revealed that approximately 20,000 products were acquired by identity theft.  The overall estimated losses exceed $42 million.

To date, 73 individuals have been arrested.  Law enforcement officials have also seized more than $6 million in assets, including cash, bank accounts, real estate, and stolen goods recovered from a warehouse.  The superseding indictment seeks the forfeiture of all property and funds derived from or traceable to the charged conduct.

“The criminal conspiracy, as alleged in the superseding indictment, is breathtaking in scope and varied in its means.  Although the public can often see criminal acts ‘above the surface,’ such as the violent robberies alleged in the superseding indictment, this case is a reminder that we do not often see the hidden criminal conspiracy ‘below the surface,’ whereby stolen or ill-gotten goods are sold in domestic or international commerce,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei.  “Such a wide-ranging conspiracy requires an equally wide-ranging response, and the cooperative, collaborative effort of our federal and local law enforcement partners made this investigation possible.”

“Together with our law enforcement partners, the FBI Dallas Violent Crimes Task Force has made great progress in removing violent offenders from our community,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno. “Each time a device trafficker allegedly delivered a product to a supplier it was the direct result of theft, robbery or fraud.  We will continue working to dismantle organizations that threaten public safety, and will fulfill our duty to protect our residents.”

“HSI will never relent in our pursuit of individuals and criminal organizations that commit fraud, financial crimes and scams on the backs of hard-working Americans,” said Ryan L. Spradlin Special Agent in Charge HSI Dallas. “We will work tirelessly with our state and federal law enforcement partners to dismantle these organizations, seizing any financial gains and assets acquired, ensuring those responsible are held accountable for their selfish actions.” 

“The individuals arrested during this investigation committed a litany of financial and cyber-enabled financial crimes ranging from wire fraud and pandemic-related fraud, to bank fraud and more,” said U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Field Office, Bill Smarr. “This case is a testament to the teamwork and partnership at all levels of law enforcement to stop these cyber criminals from defrauding American citizens.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to protecting the U.S. Mail from criminal activity and is proud to have taken part in the dismantling of this criminal network,” said Thomas Noyes, Inspector in Charge of the Fort Worth Division.  “The financial impact of this exploitation was significant and would only have continued to increase if not for a resolute, investigative response with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners.  We will continue to pursue all leads, and we thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their commitment to holding criminal enterprises accountable for their actions.”  

The superseding indictment includes charges against the following individuals:

 

If convicted, the defendants face up to 25 years in federal prison.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Texas Department of Public Safety, Dallas Police Department, Garland Police Department, Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, Carrollton Police Department, Grand Prairie Police Department, Richardson Police Department, U.S. Marshals Service for Eastern District of Texas, Denton Police Department, Allen Police Department, Sherman Police Department, and Denison Police Department.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ernest Gonzalez, Colleen Bloss and Lesley D. Brooks.

A grand jury superseding indictment is not evidence of guilt.  All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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