Federal authorities arrested the head of a phone encryption service accused of creating and marketed products to be used by domestic drug traffickers and international cartels.
Known as Phantom Secure, the Canadian company marketed itself as a leader in encryption and phone security. However, federal investigators claim the firm was actually servicing criminal organizations to avoid detection by law enforcement.
Federal authorities in Washington recently arrested Phantom Secure’s CEO Vincent “CEO” Ramos and took him before a judge in Seattle. The court ruled that Ramos, a Canadian citizen, remain in federal custody in California where he is wanted on federal racketeering and drug conspiracy charges.
The charges against Ramos stem from an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the help of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. According to court documents, the time frame of Ramos’ and Phantom Secure’s activities began in 2008 and continued until present day.
FBI agents claim that as part of their targeting of California-based drug traffickers, they encountered the use of Phantom Secure devices as a means to avoid detection. According to authorities, Phantom Secure was “set up specifically to facilitate criminal activity.” The agents claim that the services and devices were used by transnational criminal organizations (law enforcement term for drug cartels).
At a cost of $2,000 to $3,000 for a six-month subscription, the company has more than 20,000 devices in operation worldwide, according to reports. Phantom secure devices are based on Blackberry, Samsung, and Android smartphones that are stripped of most of their factory hardware and programs for encrypted features that are routed through servers in Panama and Hong Kong. The FBI claims that drug trafficking operations in Asia, Australia, and in the U.S. have been using Phantom Device phones.
Authorities claim that the phone service would wipe information from devices at the request of customers–such as in the cases of arrests and interdiction by law enforcement. In the redacted criminal complaint presented in court, partial conversations between the company and customers are listed where the firm appears to be aware that the deletion of the information is done to hinder law enforcement.
Federal investigators claim that the general public are not able to purchase Phantom Secure’s devices or services but must be referred by an existing customer. The company does not record the actual names of their customers, only emails or usernames.
Ildefonso Ortiz is an award-winning journalist with Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Brandon Darby and Stephen K. Bannon. You can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook. He can be contacted at Iortiz@breitbart.com.
Brandon Darby is managing director and editor-in-chief of Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Ildefonso Ortiz and Stephen K. Bannon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.