A court in the US has sentenced 54-year old Braulio De la Cruz Vasquez to five years in jail following a massive telecommunications fraud. The fraud involved stolen cellphone accounts and reprogramming phones. Vasquez was one of five to be sentenced for his part in the fraud ring.
Operation Toll Free
Investigators worked on the investigation codenamed Operation Toll Free. Vasquez was indicted in 2016 for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. He developed the scheme with fellow defendants Jose Santana, Edgar Lopez, Farintong Calderon, Ramon Batista and Edwin Fana.
The operation centered around the group who from 2009 until 2013 routed international telephone calls through stolen phone accounts. More than 700 emails containing 2,158 cellphone account numbers were received by Vasquez.
The gang were able to obtain control of the numbers from stolen personal data. They then used this method to set up new accounts or convinced phone carriers to give them control of existing accounts. Once they had control, the group then cloned the victim’s SIM.
Using specialist hardware, they programmed new phones with the stolen numbers and connected them to VOIP equipment which took incoming calls.
The criminal group charged carriers to connect international calls on their behalf and collected tens of thousands of dollars in the process. The victims would get the bill for these calls, but the carriers would be unable to retrieve payment.
As well as the cellphone fraud, there is also the stolen personal data from the victims that need to be taken into account. This could lead to a further two-year sentence for Vasquez for identity theft.
Vasquez’s indictment could also lead to a maximum of an additional 20 months on one count of wire fraud, along with five years for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. These sentences along with the identity theft would have to be served consecutively. Other defendants have already received between 36 months to 75 months for their part in the crimes.
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