Congress is responding to recent articles by National Review and the Scripps National Investigative Team regarding fraud and abuse within the Lifeline program.
Earlier this week, the Scripps National Investigative Team reported that 50 of the 51 people they spoke to whose names were listed on TerraCom Lifeline applications said that their signatures had been forged. TerraCom applications were also traced back to blight buildings and homeless shelters.
And earlier this week, National Review published more disturbing details: A former TerraCom employee, who earned $3 for every subsidized phone he distributed, said he was trained to forge signatures and falsify addresses on Lifeline applications. Applicants are supposed to certify under penalty of perjury that they have submitted only true information—but the ex-TerraCom worker said he’d checked those boxes on the application himself without ever notifying the prospective Lifeline beneficiaries.
And a month ago, I was able to obtain three Obamaphones, even though I am not eligible under the Lifeline program rules, and even though I answered all the vendors’ questions truthfully.
These revelations are prompting a response on Capitol Hill: Senator Claire McCaskill, (D., Mo.) and Representative Tim Griffin, (R., Ark.) are both asking for a federal probe of TerraCom and its affiliate company.
Representative Darrell Issa, (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, says he plans to hold a hearing on fraud and abuse within the Lifeline Program. Citing the Scripps National Investigative Team report, he called for the FCC to stop distributing phones today until it implements better controls. He is also turning over the Scripps findings to the Department of Justice.
And in August, Senator Jeff Sessions, (R., Ala.) wrote a letter to the FCC citing the National Review article and demanding answers about what the agency does to prevent fraud and abuse. He asked the FCC to provide this information no later than September 26.
Watch the Scripps National Investigative Team’s report on these congressional developments here: