Saturday, April 12, 2014

Florida Men Charged With $32 Million 'Obama Phone' Fraud


 
TAMPA, Florida —Three men 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 F.B.I., U.S. Department of Justice, I.R.S., and F.C.C.  announced last Thursday.


Thomas E. Biddix, 44, of Melbourne, Florida; Kevin Brian Cox, 38, of Arlington, Tennessee; and Leonard I. Solt, 49, of Land O’Lakes, Florida, were charged by a criminal indictment returned on April 9, 2014, and unsealed on April 10 in federal court in Tampa, Florida.


The indictment charges the three men 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.


The indictment also 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.


Federal authorities allege in the indictment that the men 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.
 


Another Black Eye for Brevard County

Biddix is also alleged to have used the Lifeline government subsidy to pay a portion of salaries for employees of another company, Telecom Sevice Center (TSC) of Rockledge, Florida, that temporarily had over 90% of those wages paid by Brevard Workforce through an Obama administration federal grant known as "Florida Back To Work" at the height of the recession. 


Allegedly, Biddix was prohibited from using federal money from the Lifeline program for TSC's remaining portion of those salaries subsidized by another government program.


Although publicly available information in early 2010 showed that ATMS was already under investigation for "atypical monthly growth in the amount of Lifeline disbursements received by ATMS companies" by the Florida Public Service Commission, the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast (EDC) and Brevard Workforce pushed through the "Florida Back To Work" grant money for TSC later that year.  EDC records show that Biddix was an EDC Board Member during that time and also belonged to the EDC Executive Committee.


"This is just one more great example of how collective efforts can bring employment prospects and economic diversity to the Space Coast through the partnership of our community leaders and the Economic Development Commission,”  said Brevard County Commissioner Mary Bolin in a September 2010 EDC press release about the TSC taxpayer subsidy.


Brevard Workforce, the organization that administered the grant to TSC, remains under investigation since 2011 by the U.S. Department of Labor for possible cronyism involving the award of federal grant contracts to companies connected with Brevard Workforce board members.  EDC President and CEO Lynda Weatherman, Brevard County Deputy Manager Stockton Whitten,  and Brevard Public School Superintendent Dr. Brian Bingelli are among Brevard Workforce's Board of Directors.


Biddix is the second corporate officer in less than a year that has been brought up on criminal charges related to a company lured to Brevard County by the EDC with taxpayer dollars.  Last August, BlueWare CEO Rose Harr turned herself in on an outstanding warrant in connection with bribery charges related to a multimillion dollar scanning contract involving former Brevard County Clerk of Court Mitch Needelman.


Brevard Times sought statements from both the EDC and Brevard Workforce regarding their involvement with the companies named in the federal criminal case.  Neither have responded as of the time of this publication.


SIMILAR STORIES:

Tracfone Defends New 'Obama Phone' Broadband Subsidy

Free School Lunch In Florida For Some Kids Who Can Afford It

23 comments:

  1. Really, a cellphone doesn't have any wires, so unless you make a call the thing costs absolutely nothing sitting in your pocket. There are few if any AT T trucks needed saving gas, copper wires, trenching equipment, deisel fuel, traffic blockage issues, potential accidents, and more. Al Schrader

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  2. The program needs to go back to what President Reagan set it up for. The sick, elderly and poor to have a LAND LINE PHONE in their homes for emergency use. Not a cell phone like Bill Clinton changed it to, another Democratic blunder. Why are taxpayers paying for cell phones. Shut them off and put a phone in their home the way the plan was originally written. PERIOD!

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    1. Try reading the article. The poor people who qualify for the service were not AT ALL involved in the scam...nope, it was those highly admired "makers" who turned out to be the "takers"!

      And your hateful attitude is demonstrated in your complete dismissal of the fact that emergencies do not only occur at home...

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    2. I am in this business. The program was NEVER intended for cell phones. And do your homework. The program was so 911 services could be reached for the elderly, poor, and disabled. E911 services DO NOT EVEN WORK on cell phones.

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    3. Knowing one of these persons personally, it doesn't surprise me in the least. He often referred to his customers by derogatory names, and inferred their laziness in riding the system, etc. Yes. I am not at all surprised. I hope they all go to jail for a very, very long time, and that the government doesn't allow them to buy their way out.

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  3. ABOVE POSTER----No doubt your the scum that lives off of the taxpayer--IF it wasn't for the program the scam would have never happened genius.

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    1. Our Government has squandered hundreds of Billions of Dollars on Welfare fraud, non-existent programs, Solendra, and the list goes on. Hard working Americans, and future Generations will pay for the low life people that scam this Country Daily. Obama called Bush un patriotic because he left office with a 7 trillion deficit! Obama has run our country into the ground with a now 17 trillion plus debt...What would that make Obama??????

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    2. Maybe the rich and the corporations could give their welfare back so hard working Americans and future generations don't have to pay for those low life scuz bags that scam this country daily...

      Support the Robin Hood Tax

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  4. they should make em only use dial phones or if they did get cells the real big early 90,s style.and then we could proudly call them reagans poor and wretched phones.

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    1. No they should make everybody pay for what they want to have PERIOD. Doesn't really matter now things are fallin' apart. Leeches have drained the bank dry. If we were the only ones using the US dollar for currency it would only be good to start a fire with.

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  5. The "poor" could just have old used cell phones donated to them. Even phones without paying service can dial 911. Is that not the intent of the original program?

    They do not need 250 minutes per month paid by the taxpayers.

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    Replies
    1. Nor do they need data plans, sms texts, or internet access. Once again, the program was NEVER intended for that.

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  6. Really people? Really. You're going to bitch about those horrible poor people who are recipients of these phones, but the "entrepreneur" to stole millions is still worthy of being lauded for his business skill - and his crime is nothing next to being poor? Really? Sounds like how Gov. Scott, that worthy business-friendly paragon of virtue, handled his access to govt. cash. You guys should build a statue to the guy in downtown Melbourne, considering how it's just not his fault. Those dummies in govt. are really the ones at fault, right? I don't think so. Brevard is just a cesspool of Rep/Dem (mostly Rep) political propagandists and thieves of taxpayer monies.

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    1. These programs are just another way to fleece Americans by BOTH groups. Stick to the intent. Landline, local calls only, those companies are highly regulated by the FCC which the cell companies are not as regulated. That takes care of the huge theft cases like this, and the consumer theft cases which adds up to a lot more than this.

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  7. Another shining "success" brought to us by the EDC. Any associates of that organization need to be shunned by the taxpayers of Brevard County. Haven't we been fleeced enough by the EDC?

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  8. Right on Anons of 4/14!

    In case anyone missed it - this man's father is the OWNER of the Melbourne Greyhound Track - silver spoon all the way, and soon to be super-$$$$ richy-rich when daddy gets to build his casino there.

    Highly unlikely this person ever knew a day that he had to choose between eating or paying the electric bill let alone the mere thought of food stamps. Likely never a concern about one day, week, or year of unemployment through no fault of his own as his job/career was out-sourced or the average wage dropped 30%+.

    Oh Contrare - our tax $$ were apparently stolen so this guy could have more cars then he could ever drive and to otherwise feed his greed machine. Poor Him? He not only ripped off me and all you whiners for millions, he abused tax incentives from the EDC that could have helped a legit business person and several others with real permanent jobs.

    How secure are all you people in your financial situation to believe hard times would never visit your doorstep? Reality check indeed!


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    1. ????, so anybody who has financial problems I'm supposed to bail out.

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  9. So any corporate welfare crook that asks for money I am suppossed to help out?

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  10. As one who worked for one of the aforementioned companies - we had no idea that the owners were corrupt, and most of us jumped ship when we realized [AND reported them]. Indeed, the owners were greedy and corrupt, but so were MANY - not all - of the customers. Many of those who called in were playing the system, but the staff was required to assist them if they had proof of benefits. It was a dark season in many of our lives, and truthfully - seeing this article breathes a sigh of relief that POSSIBLY...justice may prevail.

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    1. ^~~~ What s/he said!!! As someone who worked with one of the aforementioned men, while I had no idea he was as corrupt as this, I sure figured out he was a lowlife pretty quickly, though. Prejudiced against blacks, and poor people in general, and absolutely **hated** anyone who he thought might be riding the system. (Ironic, given he just rode the Federal Government for his portion of that $32 million). Frequently disconnected services just because someone made him angry, and told techs to turn it back on "later on".... that sort of thing. He also cheated several employees out of quite a good bit of money as well. Hope they all get plenty of time in a nice 10x10 cell to rot. 20 years plus paying back $32 mil plus interest and fines ought to be ok.

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  11. Take a look at the public records, Brevard County Clerk's website, a person with this name Thomas Biddix, has 12 pages of laundry aired. it reads like a comic book . Check out the names he's been associated with, Brevard's finest. ha

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