Man Who Laundered Millions from Massive Computer Hacking and Telecommunications Fraud Scheme Gets 48 Months in Prison
NEWARK, N.J. – A Pakistani citizen was sentenced today to 48 months in prison for laundering more than $19.6 million on behalf of the perpetrators of a massive international computer hacking and telecommunications fraud scheme, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.
Muhammad Sohail Qasmani, 49, formerly of Bangkok, Thailand, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Judge Hayden imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this and related cases and statements made in court:
This massive international telecommunications fraud scheme, allegedly led by Noor Aziz, 55, of Karachi, Pakistan, and responsible for total losses exceeding $70 million, involved unauthorized access to the computer systems – commonly known as PBX systems – that ran the internal telephone networks of numerous businesses and organizations in the United States. Foreign-based hackers targeted the telephone systems of the victim corporations and placed calls to those systems in an attempt to identify unused telephone extensions. Once the hackers identified unused extensions, they illegally reprogrammed the telephone systems so that they could be used to make unlimited long distance calls, all of which were ultimately charged back to the victim corporations.
The hacked telephone systems were then used to make calls to premium telephone numbers – such as purported chat lines, adult entertainment, and psychic hotlines – that generated revenue based on the calls’ duration and were set up and controlled by Aziz. In actuality, the numbers provided no actual services. Telephone company representatives who suspected fraudulent activity and called the numbers heard recordings of fake rings, fake password prompts, fake voicemail messages, music, or dead air on continuous loops.
In 2008, Qasmani, who operated a money laundering and smuggling business in Thailand, agreed to launder proceeds of the scheme for Aziz. In furtherance of the conspiracy, Qasmani established multiple bank accounts to receive the money generated by the illicit telephone traffic. Qasmani also paid the hackers and dialers who worked for Aziz to keep the scheme going.
Specifically, over nearly four years, Qasmani initiated money transfers to approximately 650 unique transferees, located in at least 10 countries, including the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Italy. Qasmani moved a total of approximately $19.6 million in fraud proceeds from November 2008 through Dec. 31, 2012. Qasmani kept laundering the money even after Aziz was arrested in connection with this scheme and later released by foreign authorities.
On Dec. 22, 2014, Special Agents of the FBI arrested Qasmani at Los Angeles International Airport after he arrived on a flight from Bangkok.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Hayden sentenced Qasmani to two years of supervised release. Qasmani must also forfeit $25,000 and pay restitution of $71,761,956.34.
Aziz was charged by indictment on June 20, 2012 and remains a fugitive. For more information, visit the FBI Cyber’s Most Wanted list. The charges and allegations against him are merely accusations, and he is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. He also thanked officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection for their assistance in this case.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney L. Judson Welle, coordinator of the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Section of the Economic Crimes Unit.
Defense Counsel: Assistant Federal Public Defender Lisa Mack Esq., Newark