Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Phantom CEO arrested in modified Blackberry, drug case, customers include Sinaloa Cartel and Hells Angels

Chivis Martinez for Borderland Beat material from Android Police, News.Au,  Pacer  read Canadiana's post here

FBI busts Phantom Secure CEO for selling secured BlackBerry phones to drug cartels, used for trafficking and murder.   Former customer, a convicted Sinaloa Cartel member, is a cooperating witness.


There are several companies that offer encrypted and untraceable phones for use by the more private figures among us, and Canada-based Phantom Secure is one of them.

However, its founder and CEO, Vincent Ramos, has been arrested by the FBI on several charges, all of which are related to selling locked-down BlackBerry phones to members of illegal organizations such as the Sinaloa drug cartel and the Hells Angels.


Phantom Secure takes what appear to be BlackBerry 9720s and removes the microphones, camera, GPS, Internet capabilities, and normal messenger services. It then adds PGP and routes messages through overseas servers. The company also has remote wiping capabilities in the case that a phone is seized by authorities. It looks like the company also offers Samsung Galaxy phones, though BlackBerry phones are likely more popular and they're the only ones mentioned in this report.

A heavily-redacted complaint [see in full at bottom]by FBI Special Agent Nicholas Cheviron was filed in the Southern District of California last Thursday charges Ramos of racketeering conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs, conspiracy to distribute narcotics, and aiding and abetting. Ramos is on record as saying "We made it---we made it specifically for this [drug trafficking] too," to undercover agents. The FBI has at least one cooperating witness, a convicted transnational drug trafficker from the Sinaloa cartel, who was a Phantom Secure customer and used the company's phones to do their business. The aiding and abetting charge comes from said witness, who allegedly used a Phantom phone when organizing the transport of five kilograms of cocaine.

For people allegedly in the business of helping gangs like the Sinaloa Cartel and Hells Angels operate under the radar of the authorities, Phantom staff was remarkably indiscreet. Motherboard reported that some of the company’s customers used email addresses like:  El chapo66@lockpgp.com Thekilla@freedomsecure.me, narco@lockedpgp.com,“Leadslinger,” “trigger-happy,” “knee_capper9,” and “the.cartel”.

Undercover Canadian police also reported that when asked if the phones were good for “sending MDMA to Montreal,” Phantom staff replied that would be “totally fine.”

“We made it—we made it specifically for this [drug trafficking] too,” Ramos allegedly told undercover police.

According to the affidavit (PDF), the phones Phantom Secure supplied to the drug dealers were extensively modified after they left BlackBerry: they're only capable of running PGP-encrypted email, with VPN connections to servers in Panama and Hong Kong. All this is expensive: the phones are sold with a US$2,000 to $3,000 six-month subscription.

The phones are sold only through personal contact – someone wanting one of the devices needs a personal introduction from an existing customer. If they fell into the wrong hands, the FBI learned, they could be remote-wiped by Phantom Secure.

Anonymous sources say that the operation was carried out in partnership with Canadian and Australian authorities, and that Phantom Secure phones have been sold in Mexico, Cuba, and Venezuela, as well as to the Hells Angels. Canada's Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) assisted by posing as drug traffickers while purchasing Phantom phones, asking if sending messages like "sending MDMA to Montreal" would be safe (Phantom said it was "totally fine"), and pretending that an associate with incriminating evidence had been arrested and required a remote wipe. Multiple undercover agents, posing as drug traffickers aiming to expand their operations, met Ramos in Las Vegas in February 2017.

An estimated 20,000 Phantom phones are being used around the world, about half of which are in Australia, giving Phantom tens of millions of dollars in revenue. That might change with this report, though.

Phantom’s international client base reached Australia, with the encrypted devices believed to have been used in planning the murders of Sydney Hells Angels member Tyrone Slemnik [below]in 2013, and drug cook and Hells Angels associate Roy Yaghi in 2012.


The FBI (as well as other US law enforcement organs like the Department of Justice) has been waging a war on encryption technology for a while, claiming that criminals equipped with impregnable mobile devices are interfering with its ability to conduct investigations. It’s also tried to force companies like Apple to build surveillance backdoors into their devices, which could potentially weaken the security features available to normal users with no intent of breaking the law.


38 comments:

  1. Lately the Sinaloa Cartel seems to be taking more hits outside of Mexico than in it.

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    1. That is the idea. Sinaloa has lots of favor with the Mexican government that is why Chapo kept escaping from prison. Even then though there are so many dumbasses influenced by the propaganda Sinaloa throws out like in their narcocorridos that even captures of entire drug running cells in the U.S. with dozens of members is only a minor yes minor setback for them. These guys just do not like to work an honest job!

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    2. 11:09 you are beyond repair.

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  2. I follow a few other sites and do Google news searches for the biggest cartels, and man has this been a slow month for news. The first two months of the year had several interesting developments, but for the past few weeks I haven't been hearing much outside of Jalisco Cartel in-fighting and a handful of arrests and sanctions.

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    1. 8:41 you should stay there with Google man, i've been trying to do that, but I became addicted to BB, and can't take the pain of withdrawal, try and get your brain check soon.

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  3. Clever and ingenious. Marketing a product specifically untraceable to those who rely on total discretion.
    Question? In a world where technology is evolving. Clearly security issues and concerns are raised for safety / privacy. Where constant threats are evident today of identity theft on millions of people.
    Apparently this companies use of such security features were designed for those criminal elements. To disguise a covertly criminal engagement for profits. Which leads to the ethical question of National security / privacy policies.
    We are all aware that this technology is available by many companies worldwide in associations with governments ( Big Brother Watching ).
    A slippery slope where advocates from both sides struggle with a comprehensive approach to ones privacy rights.
    Nevertheless, a moral issue pertains here where the sole purpose was to aid and abbet criminal activities.
    What possible sentence can be applied to these individuals for participating in criminal behavior?
    Anyone?

    Interesting post B.B..
    E42

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    1. Always well thought out and knowledgeable comments e42

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    2. Good grief...

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    3. Hey bro with feria you can but anything. There is no need to think to much leave that to the doctors and scientists. Focus on getting money by any means necessary and buy what ever you need. I have a friend who is a xiv norteño rider. He has one of them phones straight out of the black web before the feds go to it. I think he got locked up last I heard of him but my point is that with feria you can buy anything.

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    4. Check the phantom phones website, slick ads and looks genuine. So Surely you would know to be careful not to incriminate yourself in any potentially illegal activities of the customers, maybe the manager was high when he spoke to those agents.

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    5. The most ironic thing about this whole scenario is that LEO’s use similar companies to hide their true identity whole undercover. I guess it’s Ok for Boss Hogg to use them but not OK for the Duke Boys to use them.

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    6. If you use an android os/ black berry..apple..no mstter what you do to it the homeland guys have backdoors built on to them.its BUILT in by law by the phone manufacturers. As for anonomous..there is no more anonomous..not with voice print identification..these phones are used to focus on the more serious users.
      If you want more secure communications then you have to build your own hardware ( phones)that uses scalar waves.
      Remember if you use ANY TYPE of android..blackberry..apple phonrs you are still playing base ball in homelands stadium.

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    7. 6:33 you are correct to a certain extent but when it comes to prosecution in a court of law it’s much harder for the Feds to tie the communications to the defendant. Any decent defense attorney could raise enough reasonable doubt to get a case thrown out. This company only got caught because one of their customers turned government informant to save his own ass. If its as easy as you claim for big brother to find you this company would have been out of business long ago.

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  4. the emails seem like a bunch of kids made them up to be cool.. the knee capper seems to an Angel but then again who knows,hahaha

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  5. I hate to say it but CDS is really living up to the snitch reputation....

    We have a local case where some low level operatives became cooperating witnesses as well.

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    1. And it happens in a cartels not just cds all of them are the same

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  6. I had this saved off but I am glad the Legal Eagle got to it first !

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    1. The Legal Eagle hahahha good one...she/he is very knowledgeable as far as formal and legal situations are concerned...this encrypted phone thing im Sure is a very big blow not only to Mexican Dtos but to intl organizations. I wonder how much of a difference this is gonna make as far as lives saved and how fast they will replace with the ever developing technology to make a dent on this so called war on drugs. Really makes you think if the authorities really wanted to put a stop to DTOs they would be able to but its obvious theyre is a different agenda at stake...and im
      Sure cash money, pharmaceutical giants and privatization of prison systems have lots to do with it...paz. Guanatos

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    2. Just like DTOs.I bet someone has already replaced Phantom.Its a required service and in demand.It almost sounds like the deep web in a way.

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  7. This guy is an idiot. The US C.I.A. will always find you. Wherever you are whatever you do they know.

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  8. The Hells Angels. Decapitating people everyday. Killing people everyday. They almost seem like cool people compared to all other thugs. Anymore anyway.

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    1. Just low level criminal organization that ride bikes gaf..

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    2. They are high level in Canada.

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    3. The only impressive thing bikers did was when 6 of them here in Ontario were charged with first degree murder and 4 or 5 of them served the full 25 year life sentence...then they got parole... None of the six were guilty and none of them snitched. TRUE which is why I was shocked when first reading BB to hear of all the cartel guys yapping when arrested.

      Canadian girl

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    4. People that do 1/2 hour in jail or prison without being guilty are Stupid, Canadian girl, imagine doing 25 years? FTS.
      But you are free to respect whoever makes you tickle.

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  9. Dont why he got arrested supposedly our data should be confidencial that's what Snowden was arguing wtf america is evrybody business

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    1. "rights" are something that can be "removed" the system doesn't care about your privacy or freedom of speech.

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    2. when your rights and your freedoms become tools of fake news artists, trolliticians, scam arists, robots with paid for propagandas and foreign agendas, there is a need for responsiblity, there is no money to babysit cabrones like the russians and the colombians with their vote counting machines enhanced with vote change technologies

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    3. 11:02 welcome to Cambridge Analytics,
      where the plot thickens with Facebook and US letter soup.

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  10. The Phantom. Yikes.

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  11. Yes. This should be made a movie. A phantom and a blackberry phone. Action packed thriller. Only the highest standards here.

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  12. I wonder if the cds snitch is mini lic

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  13. Batman Batman Batman.

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  14. Sinaloa dropping dime go figure. I always thought jaliciences were dropping their pants before their guns but Sinaloa is proving us wrong.

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  15. Who is the cooperating witness?

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    1. I dont think theyre gonna give names bro hence the confidential informant/cooperaring witness

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  16. organized crime using pgp to communicate is old news, and law enforcement has known for a while.

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  17. Buahaha some new jersey guido thinking he looks tough (what a dbag)...

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