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FBI arrest hundreds in global sting that marketed, sold bogus encryption phones targeting criminals

Agents found drugs, murder hits, and stolen money through encrypted conversations.

Updated: June 8, 2021 - 3:02pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The FBI on Tuesday announced a "massive worldwide takedown" of criminals around the globe with a sting operation in which the agency marketed and sold smartphones purported to encrypt messages, leading to roughly 500 arrests.

The sting operation, called Operation Trojan Shield, was led the agency's San Diego bureau.  

FBI officials said in a press conference that the agency and other law enforcement groups worldwide, in an effort to nab criminals, created a fake company called ANØM to marketed the sleek black smartphones that were encrypted

However, when users sent messages, the phone would attach a master key that allowed law enforcement officials to decrypt and view the messages.

A "Confidential Human Source" worked with the FBI agreed to market the phones to distributors known to market such devices to known criminals, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

"All they talk about is drugs, violence, hits on each other, innocent people going to be murdered," said Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw, who worked on the operation with the FBI.

Colin Shivers, an assistant director in the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division, said the phones allowed agents to see hundreds of tons of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana and over $148 million in stolen currency.

Agents said they stopped over 100 threats to lives and made over 500 arrests around the world.

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