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California company faces fine for enrolling ineligible consumers in program

The Federal Communications Commission said it will fine California-based Total Call Mobile $51 million for enrolling tens of thousands of duplicate and ineligible consumers in Nevada and 18 other states into Lifeline, a discount phone service program for low-income consumers.

In a statement Thursday announcing the fine, the commission said that since 2014, Total Call requested and received $9.7 million in improper payments from the Universal Service Fund, which funds Lifeline, for duplicate or ineligible consumers.

The commission further said Total Call continued requesting Lifeline funding even after staff members and compliance specialists said company sales agents were engaged in widespread enrollment fraud.

In a liability notice complementing the statement, the commission said Total Call workers identified and alerted their superiors to at least 182 fraudulent Lifeline enrollments from Arizona, Michigan and Nevada, which used Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cards to illegally enroll customers. The commission didn’t specify how many of those fraudulent cases were in Nevada.

The commission said it found 126 forms seeking fraudulent $20,000-per-enrollee reimbursements from the program in 13 states including Nevada, yielding $2.5 million in ineligible funding. An appendix to the liability notice shows 11 instances of forms being repeatedly resubmitted with apparently fraudulent revisions in Nevada between May 2014 and November 2015.

Contact Matthew Crowley at mcrowley@reviewjournal.com. Follow @copyjockey on Twitter.

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