WASHINGTON – The owner and the former vice president for corporate strategy of Viable Communications Inc. were each sentenced yesterday to 108 months and 55 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in a scheme that defrauded the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of at least $20 million.
John T. C. Yeh, the owner of Viable, a Rockville, Md., company, and his brother, Joseph Yeh, the former vice president for corporate strategy, were also ordered to pay $20 million in restitution to the FCC. Viable pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and was ordered to forfeit $20 million and pay $20 million in restitution to the FCC.
John Yeh, 64, Joseph Yeh, 66, and Viable were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano in Trenton, N.J. Both executives were indicted on Nov. 19, 2009, along with Viable and other employees of Viable, and pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud in October 2010. In connection with their sentencings, both men admitted to defrauding at least $20 million from the FCC’s Video Relay Service (VRS), a program designed to pay for services for the hearing disabled.
John Yeh and Joseph Yeh admitted that beginning in approximately fall 2007, they conspired with others to pay individuals to make fraudulent VRS phone calls using Viable’s VRS service. According to court documents, both men paid employees of Viable, who then paid others to make the fraudulent phone calls. Viable then submitted the fraudulent call minutes to the FCC and was paid approximately $390 per hour for all VRS calls that Viable processed.
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.