A downtown Los Angeles man is being accused of “SIM swapping” to hijack social media influencers’ Instagram accounts in an effort to obtain money and engage in sexually explicit video chats with him, officials announced Thursday.

Amir Hossein Golshan, 24, was charged with two counts of wire fraud, one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information, one count of accessing a computer to defraud and obtain value, one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of threatening to damage a protected computer, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California said.

“SIM swapping” means fraudulently inducing a carrier to reassign a cellphone number from the legitimate subscriber or user’s SIM card to a SIM card controlled by another without the legitimate subscriber or user’s authorization, officials explained.

Between April 2019 and February of this year, prosecutors say Golshan schemed to defraud female influencers, models and their friends on social media. He allegedly targeted the influencers and caused the victims’ cellphone numbers to be SIM swapped, according to a federal grand jury indictment.

“He allegedly did this by deceiving the victims’ phone carriers into transporting the victims’ cellphone number to a Golshan-controlled cellphone. Golshan then reset the password and codes for the victims’ social media accounts and caused them to be sent to a device he controlled,” officials detailed.

He would then allegedly log into the victims’ social media accounts, impersonate them and request that the victims’ online friends send him money. On other occasions, Golshan extorted the victims for money and sexually explicit chats in exchange for returning the hacked social media account, federal prosecutors allege.

In a December 2021 example, a Los Angeles-based model and influencer identified in court documents as “Victim 1” received a direct message on Instagram from a friend’s account asking for a favor and her number. Victim 1 provided her number to the person she believed was her friend.

Four hours later, Victim 1 noticed that her phone was no longer connecting to her cellphone network. She received an email from her cellphone carrier stating that her account had been changed from her personal iPhone to a different one she didn’t recognize, officials detailed.

It took Victim 1 about two hours to regain control of her cellphone. She was unable to log into her Instagram account for a whole day because her password had changed. During that time, Golshan allegedly hacked into her account, posed as her and requested cellphone numbers and money from her friends, resulting in $15,000 in illicit gains, officials said.

In another incident, Golshan allegedly SIM swapped another victim, identified in court documents as “Victim 3.” Prosecutors say he took control of her Instagram account, changed the password and demanded $5,000 from her, according to the indictment. Golshan allegedly told the victim he would return her account if she called him on video chat and stripped for him, officials said.

Golshan allegedly engaged in other fraudulent schemes on social media. 

In another example, Golshan lied to other Instagram users claiming that he would provide verified user badges for a fee, according to the indictment. He allegedly charged victims hundreds of dollars each for verified badges, knowing that he could not provide them.

If convicted, Golshan faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud count, up to five years in prison for each computer hacking-related count, and two years for the aggravated identity theft count, officials said.

The case is still being investigated by the FBI.