WASHINGTON – Marc Velasquez pleaded guilty today to engaging in a conspiracy to defraud the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Video Relay Service (VRS) program, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Velasquez pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano in Trenton, N.J., to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Velasquez was indicted on Nov. 18, 2009, along with others alleged to have been involved in the criminal conspiracy. The defendants are alleged to have caused the FCC to pay millions of dollars in fraudulent reimbursements.
In pleading guilty, Velasquez admitted that, beginning in approximately October 2008, he conspired with others to pay individuals to make fraudulent VRS phone calls using a company’s VRS service. In return, Velasquez was paid at least 20 percent of every dollar of fraudulent reimbursed calls paid out by the FCC.
According to the indictment, VRS is an online video translation service that allows people with hearing disabilities to communicate with hearing individuals through the use of interpreters and web cameras. A person with a hearing disability who wants to communicate with a hearing person can do so by contacting a VRS provider through an audio and video Internet connection. The VRS provider, in turn, employs a video interpreter to view and interpret the hearing disabled person’s signed conversation and relay the signed conversation orally to a hearing person. VRS is funded by fees assessed by telecommunications providers to telephone customers, and is provided at no cost to the VRS user.
At sentencing on June 6, 2011, Velasquez faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and mandatory restitution and forfeiture.
These cases are being prosecuted by Deputy Chief Hank Bond Walther and Trial Attorneys Brigham Cannon and Robert Zink of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, with the investigative assistance of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the FCC Office of Inspector General.