AT&T is suing three of its former cell phone sales representatives in the state of Washington for allegedly contributing to the unlocking of thousands of cell phones so that the devices could work on any wireless carrier’s network. This trio of sales reps previously employed by the second biggest wireless carrier in the United States all hail from cities outside of the general Seattle metropolitan area. They allegedly installed malicious software into computers that made automated requests to unlock the mobile devices so they could be used by people without having to enter into a contract with AT&T. Such a practice would have made these devices easier to sell in the resale market.
In suing its three former sales employees, AT&T is seeking damages and injunctive relief. The lawsuit filed by the wireless carrier specifically also cites Swift Unlocks, a company that the three AT&T sales reps allegedly were helping. Swift Unlocks is based in Anaheim, California, and is known for unlocking a wide range of mobile devices for a fee. As a matter of fact, when one searches on Google, you could easily find a website using the name SwiftUnlocks offering such device unlocking services.
Illegal schemes are not uncommon in the wireless business. Certain unscrupulous characters do get away with their schemes, while others never manage to completely cover their tracks. The latter certainly applies to the three former AT&T sales reps. They each allegedly got between $10,000 to $20,000 from Swift Unlocks before their crimes were discovered. According to AT&T’s lawsuit, the three sales reps left a trail that showed they had unlocked several devices in a matter of milliseconds, which got their bosses’ attention, and eventually led to a thorough investigation.
And while the lawsuit filed by AT&T does not specifically mention criminal fraud, it does cite a particular law that is considered a criminal statute. Even if the three sales reps accused managed to evade arrest, the lawsuit filed by the wireless carrier against them will definitely cost them money. Moreover, the damages will include any profits lost by AT&T, on top of the money earned by these three sales reps when they participated in the illegal scheme, and don’t forget interest.
Unlocking remains a controversial topic in the mobile industry, especially over the past few years with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introducing new rules regarding the practice. Wireless carriers typically sell mobile devices at discounted prices, recouping that money by selling their own wireless services for the handsets. To ensure that users stay long enough to pay back the subsidy on their device, wireless carriers install locking software that prevents the device from functioning on other networks. Once customers paid off their contracts, the FCC now requires wireless carriers to provide an unlock code to customers, which should allow their devices to work on other networks, that is if the customers choose to do so.
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