United States of America VS John T.C. Yeh and his partners
[Read more about it, click USA vs Yeh, Yeh, Mowl and Tropp]
By Fookem and Bug
Also read about the Department of Justice Press Releases to Federal Bureau of Investigation, Click:
Are they hurting the Deaf communities across the United States of America? Be aware that they are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Here is a new article and see below.
Gazette.Net Maryland Community Newspapers Online
Fraud charges may nix Viable deal
Prospective buyer mulls acquisition of Rockville deaf-services firm
by Kevin James Shay | Staff Writer
A spokeswoman for the New York company that tentatively agreed to purchase beleaguered Rockville deaf services business Viable said this week it is now “considering its options” after Viable president John T.C. Yeh, three other Viable executives and leaders of six other companies nationwide were charged in a six-count indictment with conspiracy to defraud the federal government out of tens of millions of dollars.
Snap!VRS of Pearl River, a video relay service company, is “working through all the complications that have taken place since the indictments,” said Maureen Ellenberger, vice president of marketing. Snap!VRS agreed to acquire Viable in August, but the deal has not been finalized, she said.
Snap!VRS executives released a statement saying they were “disappointed at the magnitude of unethical behavior in the use of video relay service which was revealed by the news of the FBI and Justice Department investigation. While Snap!VRS was not involved in the investigation, we are of the strong public stance that the harm done to relay consumers by the wrongful acts of some individuals is unacceptable, but these acts do not change the critical need for this technology for deaf people.”
The national investigation concerns a Federal Communications Commission program designed to help deaf and hard-of-hearing people communicate with hearing persons.
Besides Viable, companies whose executives were indicted on similar charges were Master Communications of Las Vegas; KL Communications of Desert Hills, Ariz.; Mascom of Round Rock, Texas; Deaf and Hard of Hearing Interpreting Services of New York City; Innovative Communication Services for the Deaf of Miami Lakes, Fla.; and Deaf Studio 29 of Huntington Beach, Calif.
These executives fraudulently billed the FCC about $390 an hour to interpret calls between deaf and hearing people, federal prosecutors said. The calls, generally referred to as “r calls,” “rest calls” or “run calls,” were illegitimate calls often made by friends or relatives that would be billed to the FCC’s video relay service fund, officials said.
Viable is the central company in the alleged scheme, directly linked via business arrangements to five of the six other companies involved. Master Communications, KL Communications, Mascom, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Interpreting Services and Innovative Communication Services for the Deaf all operated call centers for Viable that generated and processed a large volume of fraudulent calls, according to the indictments.
“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,” Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said in a statement released Nov. 19. The FCC program is funded through a tax on regular telephone service.
The FBI’s Washington field office, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and FCC Office of Inspector General conducted the nationwide probe.
Allison Polk, a Viable spokeswoman, referred questions to Ellenberger.
Other Viable executives charged are vice president of corporate strategy Joseph Yeh, a brother of John Yeh; assistant vice president for business development Anthony Mowl; and human relations manager Donald Tropp. The charges also include submitting false claims and mail fraud.
Viable has been under a cloud since a June visit by federal investigators. The company also has been hit with lawsuits filed in federal and state courts by employees seeking back payment of wages.
This week, Nicholas Woodfield, who is representing 114 plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt by former and current Viable employees seeking back wages, filed a motion for a default judgment against John Yeh, Joseph Yeh and Mary Yeh, John Yeh’s wife. The filing said that Joseph Yeh had requested 20-day extensions twice to answer the complaint on behalf of the defendants, the last one being in mid-October. The Yehs had failed to respond to the complaint as of this week, according to the motion.
It’s unclear what impact the indictments will have on the civil case, Woodfield said Wednesday.
“I’m sorry for my clients’ sake that [Viable executives were] indicted because that is not a boon to them in their efforts to receive unpaid wages,” Woodfield added. “Whether it will be significant or a bump in the road remains to be seen.”
Bethesda lawyer John Pierce, who is listed as a representative for Viable in the civil class-action lawsuit, said in an e-mail this week that he was checking with his clients to see if they wanted to respond to a reporter’s questions.
‘Calls should look good …important not raise red flag’
The evidence against Viable executives in the FCC case includes an e-mail allegedly sent by John Yeh in July 2007 to Larry Berke, the owner of KL Communications, which ran a call center for Viable, according to the federal indictment. Berke, of Phoenix, was also among 26 people across the country charged in the case.
“Your calls should look good — not too perfect and too long hours,” Yeh wrote, according to the indictment. “Important not raise ‘red flag’ for FCC to see it. Understand me?”
John and Joseph Yeh would pay friends to generate the phony calls, officials said.
“For example, paid callers frequently called podcasts — which were prerecorded messages, like a recording of a radio program or a person reading a novel — and would routinely instruct the not to actually interpret the calls,” the indictment said.
John and Joseph Yeh used Mowl and Tropp to recruit relatives and friends to make illegitimate calls, officials said. Mowl and Tropp would be paid $30 an hour of phony calls and in turn pay people $20 to $25 per hour to make the calls, according to the indictment.
In a little more than a year from the fall of 2007 to last January, the Yehs paid Mowl and Tropp at least $162,000 to pay the illegitimate callers, and those fraudulent calls alone resulted in $2.1 million to be billed to the federal government, the indictment said. The Yeh brothers would instruct Mowl, Tropp and others to destroy documents to cover up their alleged misdeeds, officials said.
The Yeh brothers would also partner with KL and other call centers, and encourage the owners of those centers to make the bogus calls, officials said. The Yehs would instruct the owners “how to make the run calls appear legitimate” by varying the call lengths, numbers and Internet protocol addresses, the indictment said.
Snap!VRS: Critical to retain services
Because video relay services allow deaf people to have phone conversations in the comfort of their homes, rather than having to communicate via sign language in person, the technology creates economic opportunities for deaf people that were not previously possible, Snap!VRS executives said.
“Given the transformative benefits and opportunities that VRS has brought to deaf people, it is critical for Snap!VRS and other VRS companies to continue an ongoing dialogue with the FCC and consumer organizations to keep this irreplaceable service effective for relay consumers,” Snap!VRS executives said in a statement. “Snap!VRS will continue to operate as it has in the past, conducting its business with the highest priority placed on ethical standards and customer service.”
FCC Chief of Staff Edward Lazarus called the case both a tragedy and opportunity.
“The tragedy is the unfortunate truth that a significant number of unscrupulous individuals, at great cost to the nation, have preyed on a very important program for delivering essential telecommunications services to persons with hearing disabilities,” Lazarus said in a statement. “The opportunity is the chance to reiterate our commitment to the VRS program and to follow through on efforts, already begun at the FCC, to safeguard the program against further waste, fraud and abuse.”
John Yeh has long been involved with organizations that advocate for the deaf community, such as the National Asian Deaf Congress and National Deaf Business Institute. He was a trustee of Gallaudet University of Washington, D.C., which specializes in education for deaf people, for more than a decade.
In January, Deaf Life, a monthly national magazine, honored Yeh as Deaf Person of the Year. Last year, The Gazette of Politics and Business named Yeh one of its “25 CEOs You Need to Know” and Viable as one of its “Exceptional 53” businesses and nonprofits.
A native of Taiwan who immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager, Yeh helped form a Rockville software engineering and integration company before co-founding Viable in 2005. The company grew from a handful of employees to more than 240 but has shed numerous employees and closed call centers this year. Yeh’s son, Jason, and a daughter, Mei Kennedy, both work for Viable but were not indicted.
About a year ago, speaking through a deaf interpreter to a Gazette reporter, John Yeh gave little indication of any trouble.
“The company is still fairly new,” he said then. “We have to be careful about what we do.”