News 9 has found evidence in black and white that an Oklahoma-based cell phone company is bilking the government of nearly $100 million, and the feds haven't stopped writing them checks.
A division of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission filed a complaint against Icon Telecom. It lists more than 40,000 counts of violations and asks that the company be found in contempt and banned from offering Lifeline service in Oklahoma
If the courts find the details within the document to be true, it could become the biggest fraud case in the history of the Federal Communications Commission's Lifeline program, and it's all been happening right here in Oklahoma.
Last month, we took you to the Oklahoma City headquarters of Icon Telecom, but the owner was "out of town" and no one would answer our questions.
Perhaps this is why: a division of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission just filed a complaint against the company, alleging 40,920 violations in the way the company signed people up for government-subsidized cell phone service.
Icon received a whopping $36 million in government cell phone subsidies last year and is on track to receive $45 million this year.
When people sign up, they are supposed to prove they are low income and eligible for the service, and therefore are required to give the company certain information. In the complaint, state regulators say Icon could not provide them with even basic information for their subscribers, including addresses, dates of birth and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers.
Other FCC violations alleged:
• More than 6,700 subscribers with identical last names and Social Security numbers
• An "alarmingly large" number of subscribers--2,605 to be exact, using the birth date January 1, 1990
• It says Icon used 423 P.O. Boxes for subscribers instead of actual addresses
• It lists addresses on Cass Avenue, in Moore, for 180 supposed subscribers, even though there are just 23 homes on the entire street, and many of the addresses used don't even exist.
• Icon's documents revealed more than 28,000 duplicate accounts, where multiple subscribers use one address, something the FCC says it's cracked down on
We contacted the FCC to see why Icon is still operating in Oklahoma and if the company is even on the feds' radar.
"We don't comment generally on our investigations, what we are doing, or who we are working with, but I can tell you that I know the name Icon," an FCC spokesperson said.
According to a program spokesperson, Icon received a check from the feds for $7.5 million just last month.
We left a message with Icon's attorney, but never heard back Wednesday.
If the company is found in contempt on all of the charges, it could face a maximum penalty of $20-plus million in fines, which is still a fraction of the money Icon has received from the feds.
Wednesday, we told this story to Congressman Markwayne Mullin, who has already signed on to a bill that would severely cut the Lifeline program if passed.
"What you're doing by making sure that government is accountable is what everybody should be doing," Mullin said. "And if the people wasn't out there tipping you off, letting you know what's going on, we may not even know about this...because government is so big, no one's really watching it."
Mullin said he said he would use our story to continue to tell the Lifeline story to Congress, actually tacking it onto the bill he co-sponsored.
We'll be watching.