Three individuals have been indicted for their alleged roles in an approximately $32 million fraud against a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program designed to provide discounted telephone services to low-income customers.
The charges were announced today by Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. O’Neil of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Assistant Director in Charge Valerie Parlave of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Inspector General David L. Hunt of the FCC Office of Inspector General (FCC-OIG) and Chief Richard Weber of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
Thomas E. Biddix, 44, of Melbourne, Fla., Kevin Brian Cox, 38, of Arlington, Tenn., and Leonard I. Solt, 49, of Land O’Lakes, Fla., were charged by a criminal indictment returned on April 9, 2014, and unsealed today in federal court in Tampa, Fla. The indictment charges the three defendants with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 15 substantive counts of wire fraud, false claims and money laundering. The court also authorized a seizure warrant seeking the defendants’ ill-gotten gains, including the contents of multiple bank accounts, a yacht and several luxury automobiles.
As alleged in the indictment, the defendants engaged in a scheme to submit false claims with the federal Lifeline Program administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company, a not-for-profit corporation designated and authorized by the FCC. The program aims to provide affordable, nationwide telephone service to all Americans through discounted phone service for qualifying low-income customers.
The indictment alleges that the defendants owned and operated Associated Telecommunications Management Services LLC (ATMS), a holding company that owned and operated multiple subsidiary telephone companies that participated in the Lifeline Program. Biddix, chairman of the board at ATMS, and Cox and Solt allegedly caused the submission of falsely inflated claims to the Lifeline Program between September 2009 and March 2011 that resulted in ATMS fraudulently receiving more than $32 million.
The investigation has been conducted by the FBI, FCC-OIG, and IRS-CI. The United States Marshals Service provided assistance coordinating the seizures of assets.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Andrew H. Warren and Kyle Maurer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, with assistance from Darrin McCullough of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, and the United States Attorney’s Offices for the District of Columbia, the Western District of Tennessee and the Middle District of Florida.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.