Two men who once owned a T-Mobile retail store in Eagle Rock were arrested Monday for allegedly running a $25 million scheme to use stolen T-Mobile employee credentials to illegally infiltrate the company’s internal computer systems.
Argishti Khudaverdyan, 41, of Burbank, and Alen Gharehbagloo, 40, of La Canada Flintridge, are charged with multiple felonies, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, computer fraud and money laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The indictment, filed in Los Angeles federal court, also seeks the forfeiture of more than $2.25 million seized from several bank accounts and residential properties allegedly purchased with ill-gotten gains.
The defendants allegedly plotted to infiltrate T-Mobile’s computers to unlock cell phones so they could be used on any carrier’s network. The defendants were arrested pursuant to a 21-count grand jury indictment outlining the scheme that investigators believe earned the two men more than $25 million, federal prosecutors said.
According to the indictment, for the first six months of 2017, Khudaverdyan and Gharehbagloo were co-owners of Top Tier Solutions Inc., a T-Mobile premium retail store in the Eagle Rock Plaza. During that time, most cellular phone companies — including T-Mobile — locked their customers’ phones so they could be used only on the company’s network until the customers’ phone-purchase and service contracts had been fulfilled. If customers wanted to switch to a different carrier, their phones had to be unlocked.
Khudaverdyan and Gharehbagloo allegedly fraudulently unlocked T-Mobile phones, allowing T-Mobile customers to stop using T-Mobile’s services and thereby deprive the company of revenue generated from customers’ service contracts and equipment installment plans, according to federal prosecutors.
The defendants also allegedly conspired to “whitelist” or “clean” phones that had been reported lost or stolen so they could be activated again.
Between August 2014 and January 2019, Khudaverdyan and Gharehbagloo allegedly advertised their unlocking services through brokers, email solicitations and websites such as unlocks247.com. The defendants falsely claimed they provided official T-Mobile unlocks, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors allege that in order to gain unauthorized access to T-Mobile’s protected internal computers, Khudaverdyan obtained T-Mobile employees’ credentials through various means, including phishing emails that appeared to be legitimate T-Mobile correspondence.
The fraudulent emails were allegedly used by Khudaverdyan to deceive T-Mobile employees to log in with their employee credentials so Khudaverdyan could harvest the employees’ information and fraudulently unlock the phones, according to the indictment.
Khudaverdyan and Gharehbagloo, assisted by a co-conspirator, allegedly used Wi-Fi access points inside T-Mobile Stores to log onto the company’s internal network using compromised employee credentials, prosecutors said.
Investigators determined that Khudaverdyan and Gharehbagloo used money earned through the scheme to pay for, among other things, properties in Burbank, Northridge and La Canada Flintridge, according to the indictment.
If Khudaverdyan and Gharehbagloo are convicted as charged, each would face decades in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
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