Last week brought news that Vincent Ramos, CEO of Phantom Secure—a seller of custom encrypted Android and BlackBerry phones to criminal gangs—had been arrested by the FBI. Now, the Department of Justice has announced indictments against four other alleged Phantom associates.
As reported by Motherboard, the announcement names Kim Augustus Rodd from Phuket, Thailand; Younes Nasri from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates; and Michael Gamboa and Christopher Poquiz both from Los Angeles as alleged co-conspirators of Vincent Ramos. As was the case with the Phantom CEO, they have been charged with racketeering, conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs, conspiracy to distribute narcotics, and aiding and abetting.
Unlike Ramos, the four defendants haven’t been arrested and are currently considered fugitives.
The original complaint against Ramos alleges that the company was created specifically to aid criminals and the “upper echelon members” of infamous groups including the Sinaloa cartel. Phantom removes the microphone, camera, GPS navigation, internet browsing, and normal messaging services from devices before selling them. It also uses Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption software to keep criminals’ conversations secure.
The indictment states that authorities have seized Phantoms properties, including 150 domains and licenses that were being used by criminal enterprises to send and receive messages.
While there are companies that mod phones to make them ultra-secure for legitimate individuals and organizations who may need to take such precautions, Ramos allegedly told an undercover agent “We made it—we made it specifically for this [drug trafficking] too,”
“When criminals go dark, and law enforcement cannot monitor their phones or access evidence, crimes cannot be solved, criminals cannot be stopped and lives can be lost,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman. “As a result of this groundbreaking prosecution, we will disable the communication infrastructure provided by a criminal enterprise to drug traffickers and other violent criminals. Phantom Secure was designed to profit off of criminal activity committed by transnational criminal organizations around the world. We are committed to shutting these criminals down.”