FBI and Postal Investigators Arrest 26 in Scheme to Defraud FCC’s Program for Hard of Hearing and Deaf

By Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON — Twenty six people around the nation were indicted in a scheme to rip off millions of dollars from the Federal Communications Commission’s program that allows the deaf and hard of hearing to communicate with the hearing through special video equipment.

FBI agents and Postal Inspectors from states including New York, Florida, Oregon, Texas and Maryland arrested the defendants in the case on Thursday, federal authorities said.

The defendants were people involved in companies that got reimbursed for providing the FCC’s  Video Relay Service, authorities said, adding that they allegedly filed tens of millions of dollars in bogus bills.

Under the FCC program, the hard of hearing and deaf can communicate by video with the hearing with the help of interpreters and web cameras. Funding comes from fees assessed to telecommunication customers.

“The individuals charged in connection with today’s operation are alleged to have stolen tens of millions of dollars from an important government program that is intended to help deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans communicate with hearing persons,” Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer in a statement.

“These defendants are alleged to have generated fraudulent call minutes by making it appear that deaf Americans were engaging in legitimate calls with hearing persons, when in reality, the defendants were simply attempting to steal money from an FCC program that is funded by every single American who pays their telephone bills.”

Leave a Reply