Friday, October 29, 2010

Owners of deaf services company Viable plead guilty to fraud

From The Gazette in Maryland:

John T.C. Yeh (pictured), owner of Rockville deaf services company Viable, and his brother, former Viable executive Joseph Yeh, pleaded guilty Oct. 28 in a federal court in Trenton, N.J., to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Authorities said the Yehs conspired to defraud the Federal Communications Commission's Video Relay Service program, which helps deaf people communicate, by paying others to make fraudulent calls. They submitted some $55 million in claims to the FCC, according to a news release from prosecutors.

John Yeh, 63, and Joseph Yeh, 65, who previously pleaded not guilty to the charges, appeared before U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano after signing a plea agreement under which other charges would be dropped. At their sentencing, scheduled for Feb. 9, they each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Paul Kemp, a partner with Ethridge, Quinn, Kemp, McAuliffe, Rowan & Hartinger in Rockville who is representing John Yeh, and Stanley Reed, a principal with Lerch, Early and Brewer in Bethesda who is representing Joseph Yeh, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The Yehs were indicted almost a year ago, two of the 26 people nationwide charged with conspiring to defraud the FCC program. At least 11 other people, including former Viable executives Anthony Mowl and Donald Tropp, pleaded guilty during the past year.

In court documents filed this week, the Yehs said they were "presently unemployed."

John Yeh has long been involved with organizations that advocate for the deaf community, such as the National Asian Deaf Congress and National Deaf Business Institute. He was a trustee of Gallaudet University, a Washington, D.C., institution that specializes in education for deaf people, for more than a decade. Deaf Life, a monthly national magazine founded in 1987, honored him as Deaf Person of the Year in 2008.

A previous business that John Yeh formed, software engineering and integration company Integrated Microcomputer Systems, in Rockville with the help of his brothers, reached $40 million in revenue in 1995 before he sold it in 1996.

Snap!VRS of Pearl River, N.Y., a video relay service company, agreed to acquire Viable last year. But that transaction has been pending, as officials wait to see what occurs with Viable's legal situation.