Make us your home page
Instagram

Justice sues AT&T, saying it spent millions for services rife with fraud

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department sued Thursday to recover millions of dollars from AT&T Corp., alleging the company improperly billed the government for services that are designed for use by the deaf and hard-of-hearing who place calls by typing messages over the Internet.

The system has been abused by callers overseas who use it to defraud U.S. merchants by ordering goods with stolen credit cards and counterfeit checks. In response, the federal government ordered telecom companies to register their users.

The Justice Department lawsuit said AT&T failed to adopt procedures to detect or prevent fraudulent users from registering. The government said the company feared its call volumes would drop once fraudulent users were prevented from calling on the system. The government reimbursed AT&T $1.30 per minute for every call on this system.

AT&T has allowed thousands of calls by fraudulent users who registered with fake names or addresses and then billed the government for making the calls, the Justice Department said in court papers filed Wednesday. The department alleged that up to 95 percent of such calls handled by AT&T since November 2009 have been made by fraudulent users.

The department's action came as an intervention to take over a "private whistle-blower" lawsuit that was filed in 2010 in federal court in Pittsburgh by Constance Lyttle, a former AT&T communications assistant in one of the company's call centers who made the original allegations about the improper billings. If the government is able to recover money as a result of the lawsuit, Lyttle would receive a portion of it.

The system is intended to help users who are hearing- and speech-impaired.

"We will pursue those who seek to gain by knowingly allowing others to abuse this program," said Stuart Delery, the acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil division.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the government must ensure the availability of telecom relay services allowing the hearing- or speech-impaired in the United States to place phone calls. One such service is Internet Protocol Relay.

The United States has paid millions of dollars for calls by international fraudsters, the Justice Department's complaint says. Many of the calls are made by Nigerian users.

Justice sues AT&T, saying it spent millions for services rife with fraud 03/22/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 22, 2012 8:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  2. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood

    Business

    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  3. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa

    Business

    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  4. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.
  5. Honda denies covering up dangers of Takata air bags

    Autos

    With just a third of the defective Takata air bag inflators replaced nationwide, the corporate blame game of who will take responsibility — and pay — for the issue has shifted into another gear.

    Honda is denying covering up dangers of Takata air bags. | [Scott McIntyre, New York Times]