The Sessions Steamroller is on the move again; this time on the US-Canadian Pacific Coast. In a surprise move, the details of which are only now becoming public, the FBI took Victor Ramos---CEO of Phantom Secure---into custody in Bellingham, Washington. Today, indictments were opened against Ramos and four of his fugitive confederates. Phantom Secure is (or was) a Canadian company.
Phantom Secure was selling a type of 'smart-phone' with sophisticated encryption software. The phones with Phantom software automatically disconnected from GPS, Internet, 'the Cloud' and re-routed through offshore phone-banks. It also had some type of locking mechanism by which the phone records couldn't be accessed by third parties. This type of software isn't illegal; but some quick-thinking by FBI Special Agent Nicholas Cheviron during a recent drug raid led him to suspect that more was afoot here than basic privacy concerns.
With our new and more efficient Justice Department, Sessions took Cheviron's suspicions seriously and set up a joint sting-operation with Canadian and Australian authorities. Ramos got caught red-handed working with criminal gangs like the Sinaloa Cartel, Hell's Angels, and to the Cuban and Venezuelan Governments (nota bene).
Ramos actually met with undercover agents posing as drug traffickers on several occasions; in one case offering one agent---who claimed to represent a recently arrested drug kingpin---an even more sophisticated app to better evade law enforcement. In one instance, he told undercover Canadian Mounties that "we made this phone specifically for drug trafficking too."
Ramos and his cohorts were charged with Racketeering, Conspiracy to Distribute Narcotics, and Aiding and Abetting Narcotic Traffickers. All five of these jokers are subject to a life sentence if convicted. Phantom Secure was broken up by the Canadians, The FBI estimates that there are 20,000 such phones worldwide: all of which are useless now because the software is no longer supported.
This is the first time that the FBI has targeted a communications company (successfully) for knowingly providing criminal enterprises with technology to carry out their crimes. It's an interesting case from that standpoint. There's always been some suspicion that some companies market toward the Underworld. This is the first attempt actually to prove it. When Special Agent Cheviron noticed that drug-gangs were using this technology, he looked into it further. Most of us would have been inclined to assume it was a widely-used app because it's privacy features were so good. Cheviron deserves a round of applause for thinking outside of the box and bringing about the downfall of a major facilitator behind our narcotic epidemic.