Former Phone Company Employee Pleads Guilty for Role in Sim Swap Scam Conspiracy That Targeted At Least 19 Customers, Including New Orleans Resident

Published 4:28 pm Monday, April 26, 2021

NEW ORLEANS –  U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that STEPHEN DANIEL DEFIORE, age 36, a resident of Brandon, Florida, pleaded guilty as charged before United States District Judge Jay C. Zainey after previously being charged in a one-count Bill of Information with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 371 and 1343, for his role in a subscriber identification module (SIM) Swap scam that targeted at least nineteen people, including a New Orleans-area physician.

According to court documents, a SIM Swap scam is a cellular phone account takeover fraud that results in the routing of a victim’s incoming calls and text messages to a different phone. Once a perpetrator is able to swap the SIM card, it is likely he is able to obtain access to a victim’s various personal accounts, including email accounts, bank accounts, and cryptocurrency accounts, as well as any other accounts that use two-factor authentication.

From August 2017 until November 2018, DEFIORE worked as a sales representative for Phone Company A.  In that capacity, DEFIORE had access to the accounts of Phone Company A’s customers, including the ability to switch the SIM card linked to a customer’s phone number to a different phone number.  Between October 20, 2018, and November 9, 2018, DEFIORE accepted multiple bribes, typically in the amount of approximately $500 per day, to perform SIM swaps of Phone Company A customers identified by a co-conspirator.  For each SIM swap, a co-conspirator sent DEFIORE a customer’s phone number, a four-digit PIN, and a SIM card number to which the phone number was to be swapped.  In total, DEFIORE received approximately $2,325 in a series of twelve payments.  Among the individuals whose accounts DEFIORE accessed was Victim A, a New Orleans resident, whose phone number was swapped on November 10, 2018, to a SIM card contained in an Apple iPhone 8 that was in the possession of Richard Li.  Li was charged with his role in the offense in June 2020.  Sentencing before Judge Zainey has been scheduled for July 27, 2021.

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U.S. Attorney Evans praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Assistant United States Attorney Jordan Ginsberg, Chief of the Public Corruption Unit, is in charge of the prosecution.