Oklahoma City-Based Telecom Owner, Associate Indicted On Federal Charges
OKLAHOMA CITY - An Edmond man has been charged in federal court in Oklahoma City with money laundering for transferring over $20 million from his Oklahoma cell phone company's account to a personal account. In the indictment announced Wednesday, the US Attorney's office in Oklahoma City said.
Oscar Perez-Zumaeta of Cancun, Mexico was also charged with crimes involving more than $25-million of fraudulent claims against the federal Lifeline program.
This after a 6 Investigates expose last year on Wesley Chew's Icon Telecom. The company provided government-subsidized cell phones to the poor from 2011 to 2013.
6 Investigates discovered the government had been writing Icon Telecom checks with no audits, meaning millions were given to them based on the honor system.
Wesley Chew and his company are charged with making a false statement to the government. Specifically, US Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, Sanford Coats alleges auditors asked Icon Telecom in May 2013, to provide 58 specific customer recertification forms as part of a Lifeline audit.
The government alleged "that in the absence of legitimate forms, Icon created false recertification forms, fabricated the subscribers' signatures on the forms, and electronically submitted the fictitious forms in response to the audit."
"Although this program was designed to help low-income Americans have basic access to phone service, these individuals, and their companies, allegedly exploited the system to line their own pockets," said U.S. Attorney Coats.
"All of us must be concerned when programs like this are abused and defrauded. I commend the FCC-Inspector General, FBI, and IRS Criminal Investigation for their cooperation and coordination in this investigation."
Coats said Perez-Zumaeta is charged in a ten-count indictment. The indictment alleges that Perez-Zumaeta directed sales personnel to use phone books to come up with names and addresses for bogus Lifeline customers and to dispose of telephones registered to fake customers by selling them on the street for approximately $5 each.
6 Investigates learned Icon Telecom shut down its Lifeline service in 2013.
In a news release, Coats said Icon Telecom, owned exclusively by Chew, participated in the wireless Lifeline Program from July 2011 until September 2013. Coats said in September 2011, Icon reported fewer than 2,200 wireless customers who qualified for the Lifeline program. By November 2012, that number had grown to 135,364.
Coats further alleged that to recruit new customers, Icon relied almost exclusively on a company which Perez-Zumaeta owned and operated.
The government says if convicted, Wesley Chew faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Chew will have to pay back the money he got from the Lifeline program.
Coats said Icon Telecom, if convicted, faces up to five years of probation, a fine of up to $500,000, and mandatory restitution.
And Perez-Zumaeta, if convicted, could be imprisoned for 20 years on each of the conspiracy and wire-fraud counts and 10 years on each of the money-laundering counts.
Perez-Zumaeta was arrested in late April 2014 at the San Francisco airport and is currently in federal custody.
At last word, Wesley Chew was not in custody.