Telecommunications companies are an integral part of American life. But in many cases, these corporate giants abuse their power and neglect their legal responsibilities. As a result, the government – and, by extension, the taxpaying public – is routinely cheated out of millions of dollars. Telecommunications fraud on the government takes many different forms, but it is all actionable under the False Claims Act (FCA).
Whistleblowers who have evidence of fraudulent telecommunications conduct can bring a claim under the FCA. If the government is able to recover sanctions against the company in question, a whistleblower may be eligible for a reward. However, FCA claims are not easy to make and are even more difficult to pursue, which is why you need the knowledgeable legal team of Newman & Shapiro.
How Telecommunications Fraud Happens
One thing that potential whistleblowers should know is that there is no one single example of telecommunications fraud. Telecom companies have a multifaceted relationship with the government involving taxes, subsidies, contracts, and more. That means there are numerous opportunities for fraud.
Fortunately, that also means there are many different people who could potentially become aware of, and report, such activity. If you work for a telecom company or otherwise have access to inside information involving one, you could have evidence of fraud. These are some different ways telecommunications companies rip off the government:
- Failure to collect taxes. Some telecommunications companies fail to collect taxes owed to federal, state, and local governments. Sprint, for example, was sued by the state of New York for failing to collect $100 million in sales taxes from its customers for nearly a decade. The company settled this and other claims for $330 million.
- Defense contractor fraud. Defense contractors provide an array of services to the United States military. Among these are telecommunications services. But like any other defense contractor, a telecom company doing business with the government could engage in fraudulent activity regarding those contracts. This could include overbilling, providing substandard service, shifting costs from a fixed-price contract to a cost-plus contract, and other forms of misconduct.
- Misuse of stimulus funds. Occasionally, telecommunications companies receive stimulus funds to provide certain services to disadvantaged or struggling communities. For example, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act allocated billions of dollars to expanding internet access to rural areas. The current coronavirus pandemic has prompted a push to allocate stimulus funds to telecom companies for at-home internet access. Any stimulus funds received by these companies could be misused.
- Reimbursement for surveillance and wiretapping. The government frequently engages in wiretaps and other forms of surveillance that necessitate cooperation with telecom companies. These companies may be eligible for reimbursement for costs incurred during these activities. However, it is not uncommon for costs to be inflated and the government overbilled. These forms of fraud often involve the FBI, DEA, and other law enforcement agencies.
- Telecommunications relay fraud. Users who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech impediments can make a phone call using a telecommunications relay service, such as internet protocol (IP) relay. Telecom companies can be compensated for providing this service. Usually, compensation is provided on a per-minute basis, which opens the door to inflating the amount of time the service was used.
- Universal Service Fund fraud. Another way the government attempts to expand phone and internet access is through the Universal Service Fund. The FCC disperses billions of dollars into this fund which is designed to help schools, libraries, low-income citizens, and others. Fraud can occur with respect to competitive bidding for services, lying about the number of people receiving these services, and more.
Who May Know About Telecommunications Fraud
Telecom companies are huge, and there are many workers serving in a variety of capacities. There are also third-party vendors which help these companies carry out various business duties. Since fraud can happen in a number of ways, many people might have knowledge or evidence of it. Those individuals could include:
- Technicians, line installers, repairers, and maintenance workers
- Executive officers such as a COO or CEO
- Compliance officers and managers
Regardless of your position with a telecommunications company, your knowledge of fraud could make you eligible for a reward.
Filing A Whistleblower Claim Under The FCA
If you have non-public information about telecommunications fraud – meaning it is not already known to the general public or to the government – you may be able to file a whistleblower claim. The information must be substantive and lead to an enforcement action against the company.
Individuals who report misconduct first are rewarded. If you wait too long and someone else comes forth with the information, your claim will likely fail. However, if your claim is well-documented and convincing, you could stand to receive 15-30% of the monetary sanctions recovered by the government.
What Can Newman & Shapiro Do For Me?
Our firm handles a variety of whistleblower cases affecting numerous industries, including telecom. Through this extensive practice, we have developed significant experience with the laws surrounding FCA claims. We know the type of evidence the government is looking for, and we know how to present it in a compelling manner that will prompt enforcement action. Any whistleblower reward will vary in amount based on several factors, and we have successfully negotiated significant amounts on behalf of our clients. Lastly, we can help protect you against workplace retaliation in the event your employer tries to punish you for exposing misconduct.
Contact Our Telecommunications Fraud Whistleblower Attorney
Telecom fraud cheats taxpayers and gives companies an unfair advantage while permitting them to provide substandard services. Let us work with you to stop these fraudulent practices and claim the reward you deserve. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.