FBI spy phones led to a worldwide crime sting
June 9, 2021 4:31 pm
It took $100,000 plus expenses, and likely reduced prison sentence, for the smartphone developer to collaborate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2018.
Three years later, the investigation involving 9,000 law enforcement officers from 17 countries saw authorities monitor 27 million messages from 12,000 devices in 100 countries and track the activities of more than 300 organised crime groups.
To date, there have been more than 800 arrests and the seizure of more than eight tonnes of cocaine, 22 tonnes of cannabis, two tonnes of synthetic drugs, 250 guns, 55 luxury vehicles and over $48 million in cash and cryptocurrencies.
Acting US Attorney Southern District California, Randy Grossman says the “confidential human source”, a former drug trafficker, had been creating a new hardened encrypted phone with a bespoke app called ANOM, also styled An0m.
“Criminal organizations and the individual defendants that we have charged purchased and distributed ANOM devices in an effort to secretly plan and execute their crimes. But the devices were actually operated by the FBI.”
More arrests and seizures are expected.
For at least a decade, organised crime groups have used phones like Phantom Secure to organise drug deals, hits on rivals and launder illicit earnings without detection.