The FBI exploited a coterie of criminal “influencers” and their clout in the illicit underworld to peddle an encrypted phone to fellow delinquents they thought was completely secret but was actually being monitored by law enforcement right under their noses.
The device, created by the FBI with a confidential informant seeking to escape jail time, ended up in the hands of thousands of criminals and was the key to a massive, “unprecedented” takedown of crime groups across the globe that was unveiled Tuesday, authorities said.
The phones, which only had the capability to send messages, were first introduced to the criminal underworld in October 2018 and were marketed as a new hardened encrypted device “designed by criminals, for criminals,” federal prosecutors in California explained.
“Transnational criminal organizations flock to these devices because they provided, until now, an unpentrentable shield against law enforcement surveillance and detection,” said Assistant US Attorney Randy Grossman.
The FBI first introduced the phones to the