November 19th, 2009
08:02 PM ET
12 years ago

26 indicted in scheme to defraud program for the deaf

Washington (CNN) - Federal authorities Thursday indicted 26 suspects in nine states in a wide-ranging scheme to defraud a program intended to help the deaf.

Officials said they arrested conspirators in New York, New Jersey,
Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Maryland.

"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," said Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Criminal Division.

Breuer told reporters the defendants allegedly generated fraudulent call minutes by making it appear that deaf Americans were engaging in legitimate calls with hearing persons. "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," he said.

The FBI was deeply involved in the investigation, authorities said.

Joseph Persichini Jr. assistant director of the FBI's Washington field office, added, "Unfortunately, this remarkable service designed to help those in need also provided a growth opportunity for criminal activity that we believe has cost American consumers tens of millions of dollars."

Officials said the 26 indicted individuals falsely billed the government at a rate of $390 per hour for using what is known as as a video relay service system.

The indictments say owners and employees of seven companies engaged in the scheme. The firms are located in Rockville, Maryland; Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix, Arizona; Austin Texas; Miami Lakes, Florida; and Huntington Beach, California; and one firm operated in both New York and New Jersey.

Filed under: Justice Department
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. james

    This has got be Acorn's fault. It just has to be.

    November 19, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  2. Old Farmboy

    This has to be something that was planned by the Bush adminstration and solely falls into the hands of Bush, Cheney, and Rove.

    Just kidding, it's messed up that people will use a disadvantage for an advantage. Glad they were caught.

    November 19, 2009 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  3. gary davis Harbor Oregon proud american

    LOCK all of them up and weld the door shut . but make them pay back everything the scamed. even if they have to clean up road ways or clean septic systems and break rocks in a quarry.. no mercy sock it to them all 🙂

    November 19, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  4. No Hillary = No Obama

    Have these people no shame?

    November 19, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  5. Keith in Austin

    Maybe these 26 sleazeballs can get new jobs with ACORN.

    November 19, 2009 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  6. victim of republican greed

    This slime reminds me of the health insurance industry and their lobbyists.

    November 19, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  7. Peter s

    Those are the kind of people who should be tried! found guilty followed by death penalty!!

    November 19, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  8. Moe, NY

    These people are, obviously, the scum of the earth. Way to go FBI! Hope these people are held accountable for their crime. Hopefully, they will serve a long prison term...and, I am not a right wing NeoCon, who wants to exacute everyone, even children (plus leave the United States of America), I just want justice done in this case. Hopefully, most people will have enough compassion (which is short in America) to want these monsters to be held accountable. I do not even want to hear about a government program that is designed to help individuals with handicaps put down. Note to Palin: See Sarah...there are no death panels, our government really is protecting people.

    November 19, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  9. garer

    Some people are pathetic and selfish...prosecute them!

    November 19, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  10. Rush,the carnival barker

    Please name the firms.

    November 19, 2009 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  11. load3d

    These fraudsters make me sick. It's true there isn't an honest person left anymore. The last guy they took out back and shot him for being too honest.

    November 19, 2009 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  12. Florence

    what was America's score for fraud and corruption? I think we are in the same level of Afghanistan and Iraq.

    November 19, 2009 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  13. Mike Dallas

    Take that you cons of the party of NO.

    While you were complaining about any and everything, the FBI was out rooting out criminal that may have cost us taxpayers 2 billion of our tax dollars.

    Imagine what we could obtain if we were all working together to move this great country forward!

    November 19, 2009 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  14. phoenix86

    What for the fraud that will happen with Obamacare.

    November 19, 2009 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  15. valwayne

    Tens of millions of dollars from a tiny Government program for deaf people. Can you imagine the theft and the losses when the Government is running all of Healthcare with Obamacare. Despite the fake numbers the House and Senate gave the CBO we know Obamacare will cost 3 to 9 Trillion dollars which could very well bankrupt our country for a generation with our economy the way it is now. And you can count on 1/3rd of that to be theft. Corruption between the politicians calling the shots and Doctors, Hospitals, Clinics, Lawyers, and the rest just plane fraund and corruption. Do we really want to be denying cancer patients and old people life saving treatment because 1/3 or better of our tax dollars for critical health care are just stolen?

    November 19, 2009 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  16. Amy Campbell

    Is there a protection device, of sorts, that prohibits individuals from engaging such a scheme? Does it occur when people have taken part in a plot first?

    November 19, 2009 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  17. T'SAH from Virginia

    Are they going to blame ACORN for this??? Hmm, I don't think so!!

    November 19, 2009 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  18. Senior Lilarose in Oregon

    I would like to know the name of the creep in Oregon who was involved in this scheme.

    November 19, 2009 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  19. PALIN/BACHMANN 2012!!!

    One more Obummer marxist government program to raise the deficit. How's that change workin' out for you?

    November 19, 2009 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  20. m smith

    Don't just convict . Make it a long sentenance. These people are creeps.

    November 19, 2009 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  21. Nea

    This is the real reason why people dont want the government involved because they fear it will shine a spotlight on them when they do fraudulant things like this, take Health Care for example.

    November 20, 2009 12:33 am at 12:33 am |