A Mexican businessman who has lived in Chula Vista and Tijuana pleaded guilt on Tuesday in San Diego federal court for selling spyware and hacking tools used to intercept and monitor communications with political rivals.
Carlos Guerrero, 48, admitted to his involvement in the sales of interception and surveillance to Mexican Governments of Baja and Durango, along with several other clients through his company, Elite by Carga. According to Guerrero’s plea agreement, sales were also completed to private and commercial companies.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the Guerrero sale was for its intended use. Prosecutors cite one occasion where Guerrero arranged for an unidentified mayor in the Mexican state of Morelos to access a rival's Twitter, Hotmail, and iCloud accounts.
According to the plea, Guerrero also used the equipment to monitor his competitors. The plea agreement cites that in 2015, he intercepted an unidentified business competitor's phone calls "to benefit Defendant's consortium".
“Today’s guilty plea helps stem the proliferation of digital tools used for repression and advances the digital security of both U.S. and Mexican citizens,” stated U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “This Office is committed to disrupting malicious cyber activities and mitigating unlawful surveillance.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team and Homeland Security Investigations for their excellent work on this case.
Guerrero’s company earned commissions by arranging the sales of interception devices and hacking services, according to the plea agreement. He marketed signal jammers, Wi-Fi interception tools, IMSI catchers, and the ability to hack WhatsApp messages as part of the services available for his clients.
“With this guilty plea, we are sending a clear message that companies and individuals who unlawfully violate privacy rights will not be tolerated and they will be held accountable,” said Chad Plantz, Special Agent in Charge for HSI San Diego. “The world we live in is increasingly interconnected by technology meant to improve our lives, but as seen in this case, this same technology can be acquired by bad actors with harmful intentions. HSI and our law enforcement partners will remain committed to bringing to justice those who attempt to manipulate these platforms for nefarious purposes.”