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PBX phone system hacking nets crooks $50 million over four years

Dial G for guilty – one miscreant admits laundering role

A bloke has admitted laundering millions of dollars for hackers who ripped off US companies by hacking into their telephone systems.

Miscreants in Bangkok and Pakistan wormed their way into American organizations' PBX systems and identified phone extensions that weren't assigned to a user but were still live. These were then used to dial long-distance, premium-rate phone lines run by the hackers – with the companies running the PBX systems footing the bill.

According to prosecutors, this was a highly professional operation. Muhammad Sohail Qasmani, 47, was recruited to launder US$19.6m netted from the scam between 2008 and 2012.

Qasmani, who was operating out of Bangkok, set up 650 bank accounts in ten countries to receive and process funds from the fraudulent phone lines, and then funneled the dosh back to the hackers – minus his commission. The scam was allegedly run by Noor Aziz, 53, of Karachi, Pakistan.

However, when Qasmani visited the US on December 22, 2014, he was arrested by the FBI who had earlier indicted Aziz. The Feds claimed Aziz's gang had reaped more than $50m from the scam so far. This week, Qasmani agreed to plead guilty to one charge of wire fraud, with a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

"Thanks to the hard work of the prosecutors and agents on this case, Qasmani acknowledged his role in an international scheme that hijacked the telephone networks of US companies and ran up millions in bogus charges," said US Attorney Paul Fishman.

"Today, he admitted moving over $19 million in illicit proceeds across 10 countries and ensuring the dialers and hackers who perpetuated the scheme received their cut."

Qasmani will be sentenced in May but, so far, Aziz remains at large. He's now on the FBI's Most Wanted list and is thought to be hiding out in Saudi Arabia. ®

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