Telecom fraud nets prison time for two defendants

Voice-over-Internet-Protocol can offer great cost savings for many companies, but some unscrupulous individuals have decided that the best way to save on their telephony bills is to steal from others. Fortunately, at least two criminals who committed high-volume VoIP fraud were recently sentenced to do hard time behind bars.

The two individuals, Vinod Tonangi and Harjeet Bhambhani, were accused of telecom fraud to the tune of $4.4 million. U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan handed down a sentence of just over one year for Tonangi and just over three years for Bhamhhani. In addition, the two must serve three years of supervised release and Tonangi must pay $1.7 million in restitution.

The defendants plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud after accusations of selling stolen VoIP services to telecom companies, including both AT&T and Verizon. The two men used dummy companies to receive credit from VoIP wholesalers, and then resold the services to larger companies for a profit. The dummy corporations, Paradise Communications, Reach Communications and Airtel Holdings, did not offer services, and merely consisted of shells with fake employees, addresses and email accounts.

A far more common type of telecom fraud, however, comes in the form of hacking. Untrustworthy individuals have been known to hack into a company’s VoIP equipment and help themselves to “free” calls – costing these companies more than $150 million a year –according to one study.

Fortunately, there are ways to stop this kind of telecom fraud. One company that specializes in telecom fraud detection, as well as least cost routing and number portability, is TransNexus. Its SDReporter software has been upgraded with fraud detection features that allow companies to catch potential hacking and theft in real time. It’s certainly easier than trying to track down bogus shell corporations!