The warrant served in June by the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission / Office of Inspector General (FCC / OIG) serves a dual purpose:

#1 to address the discovery of some conspiracy, or “scheme“ of VRS providers breaking the law of defrauding the U.S. government. and
#2 to announce “the party is over” in regards to submitting minutes without scrutiny .

IT'S ALL HERE… the FBI, warrants, arrests, the surveillance, fraudulent activities, seizure, evidence, documents and all the drama of CSI: Philadelphia.
See the warrant here

While still “under investigation.” there’s a dark cloud of suspicion and a search to find more crooks to add to the M&M (“manufactured minutes“) most-wanted list. This fear laser is being aimed at VI's whose “independent contractor” status makes them the most vulnerable. Many are young and new in an industry starving to fill it's demand and fatten it's corporate wallets.

Unfortunately, VRS 101 training never included the section on “How to unknowingly rip off the TRS fund and end up behind bars ”.
The FBI arrested 2 individuals for conspiring to defraud the government along with 2 other VRS providers, identified as Company 1 (certified) & Company 2 (uncertified), who are accused of playing a role in this game-play of fraudulently receiving TRS fund monies. This arrest is calling for a re-evaluation of stakeholders to focus on what happened without looking guilty !

The Government is challenged on how to differentiate between the normal VRS business operation and the fraudulent use of minutes for reimbursement by the government. What everybody knows is that there is a big pile of taxpayers money changing hands with very little oversight.

RID conference in Philly
FCC-OIG crashes the party


After Viable was forced to withdraw its premiere sponsorship unexpectedly of the RID conference due to “recent circumstances“, this left the RID i.e. “the membership,” exposed for their role in the investigation and opened the door for the FCC-OIG to “crash the party“.

Trying to distance itself from the seriousness of these “recent circumstances” will be difficult for the RID leadership given all the PR that was completed prior to and distributed in support of Viable for the conference. This is in addition to the announcement that the conference is “the largest gathering of sign language interpreters in the world“. Key players in the investigation.
The RID conference was robbed of its innocence and stripped of its authority much like the Code of Ethics has any merit when an interpreter is presented with a subpoena to testify. One must wonder what else did the RID leadership know about Viable prior to the investigation and this practice of “manufactured minutes” that could become public record ?
This leads to the “invitation” for the FCC-OIG to show-up at the Philly conference. Was this unexpected as the packed room size would suggest or a gesture of innocence from the RID in “cooperating with authorities“?

Daryl Crouse commented ;
“RID should never have allowed the FCC or for that matter any government agency to muscle their way into the conference. It is an event for RID business and training of interpreters. If the FCC wanted to educate interpreters on the reimbursement methodology, that would be a great way to educate. It appears from the onlooker this is nothing more than a fishing expedition on their part with the side benefit of intimidating interpreters.”

Perhaps apologies or knowledge of criminal activity cannot be publicly expressed for being linked with these alleged “criminals” under investigation by the FBI, FCC & OIG at this time.
Guilty by association will be the next hurdle the RID must now move beyond and to somehow regain some credibility for what a conference should be. Or are things THAT BAD?

This “no comment” period during this investigation will eventually run dry and an official position should present itself as a matter of course to inform the membership, THE stakeholders as to what, or how, this happened regardless of outcome.
Undoubtedly, the future must now include background checks on sponsors to avoid repeating this embarrassing “mistake” at future conferences much like job applications inquire, ”Have you ever been convicted of a FELONY” ?

The “cage rattling” appearance at the RID conference in Philadelphia in getting the word out through the Kanye West m.o. by the OIG to upstage VI innocence in doing their dial-tone job remains a mystery at this time.
This investigation has yet to be played out. Then comes the guilty verdict along with the punishment.
Then does one ask, did I have a role in any of this…? I should have been at the Philly conference in ‘09...

Standing Room Only -
fire alarm on VI attention

Upon bumping into a VI circle of friends on Monday, news spread of the FCC-OIG giving a follow-up meeting about the “recent circumstances” and as a follow-up to Sundays initial presentation.

The BUZZ became, “I’m going to the FCC session at 1:00p-room 303. ”.
Apparently, the Sunday session fell short of addressing the questions from VIs who went and left scratching their heads on this new development that clouds their understanding of VRS calls and threatens their livelihood with uncertainty.
Arriving to room 303, extremely small by RID conference standards , I position myself towards the rear and take a look around at the sparsely attended seating. I wanted to get a “heads up” on this BUZZ somehow.
Alas, my eyes catch a VI seated to my left in front of me who returns an inquisitive gesture to me about the couple dressed up in business suits seated nearby. His lips ask and points,“ those investigators ?“
Peculiar question I think. How would I know ? But looking again, they do look a little out of place dressed like they’re attending a presidential news conference. My mind tells me…lets find out.

Incorporating a little spontaneous investigation of my own, I sign back to the VI that I will tap the shoulder of the guy and for the VI to “ask them in ‘sign’ what is their name”. This fail-proof method will reveal as to whom these out of place “secret agents” are. After this short ASL inquisition, a shoulder shrug ensued from the “agent” and the,” aba ba ba aba” don’t know sign facial gesture
appeared that brought a chuckle and a BUSTED conclusion of their identity.
After a quick introduction as to their names of Joe and Julie and an informal “welcome to the conference“, the 2 Js must of felt a little uncomfortable of their “secret agent “ profile being exposed ,so they got up and left. Hmmmm…
Soon, VIs’ started filling the room. wall to wall, in the hall, on the floor, even on top of each other-
Space was at a premium with complaints to move the meeting location, postpone or AT LEAST open the panel room divider in the rear. After an appeasing "see what we can do" from those "in control" a reply of NOPE-NO CAN DO was received!

The Meeting Room Overcrowding alert (pg 17-program book) states “RID and the Marriott Hotel are required, by law, to follow room capacity regulations set forth by the fire marshall.Oh really ?

This room, as the photo to the right shows,was ABOVE CAPACITY and in violation of this safety post. The last minute attention the OIG was hoping to receive in this forum of fear obviously achieved some level of success.

The Investigation
smoke with no fire

Jay Keithly from the FCC-OIG was spokesperson at the conference and is the go-to rep (special assistant) on the investigation. At Mondays session he began to address the overflow crowd with soothing words of his past experience of taking an ASL class and his support of VRS… how nice!
Then the lockdown came, passing out copies of the warrant to those “lucky” ones in the front of the packed room. The reps presentation plans did not foresee having enough of these articles of importance “to study” for the hungry VIs to digest. The opening salvo of unpreparedness.
Repeated attempts by VIs for a CLEAR DEFINITION on what a fraudulent call
were always referred back to,” You need to “STUDY the warrant”, and the rely on your “gut“ and the “if it smells like…” approach.
Kinda like doing research without the internet.

Comments that VIs wanted to clean the fraud up were just as serious, if not more so than the FCCs’ attention in this matter of “defrauding the U.S. Government”. The answer from this rep continued throughout the session in the generic terms of, ”I can’t tell ya what it is, but don’t do it and we’re here for you to report it to us."
As one VI commented afterward, Jay Keithly was not the right person, was not prepared, does not understand the role & responsibility of a VI and lastly, most importantly, could not define in a clear or complete way what a BONA FIDE CALL IS- instead instructing to rely on “your-gut” to determine whether to disconnect the call and report it to your manager to avoid “run call” suspicion, participation or prosecution.VI Black & white quote.

This VI gives an example of how “your gut” could land you in court…or worst.
A Deaf caller is a man and claims to be a woman OR a religiously consumed female VI must place a Deaf male call to an “offensive” x-rated pod cast.
According to this FCC-OIG reps’ “gut” intuition, “your gut” may tell you to disconnect from either OR BOTH of these scenarios and then the Deaf could rightfully SUE the vrs provider from this discretionary FCC directed “gut” instinct call that YOU terminated. Will there be any legal defense/protection from the RID or the VRS provider should that happen to the IC VI, the “bread maker” in the VRS Industry?
More on this vacuum coming below ...
This VI put it in black and white-
"VIs are not responsible to “police” calls and do not have authority to pass judgment on the validity of a Deaf persons rights in a call unless they have evidentiary proof that what the caller was doing violated FCC regulation."

To illustrate the point here is seeing 2 people in the same room on a call (VRI) which provides clear evidentiary proof and is in FCC violation of VRS rules.

The anticipated “buzz” session from the FCC-OIG fell short of expectations. Period.
Mr. Keithly’s “can’t answer any questions because its an ongoing investigation” and the one-way street of “open yourself up to us (without any legal counsel or courtroom protocol) while we cast the net here at the conference so that we can move this investigation along” was the constant theme.
All the hype for this? Ambiguous, hollow, and threatening.

A small group of VIs did react to this presentation by establishing an immediate caucus (thru I-phone and Blackberry channels) to create a Motion to submit for tomorrows (Tuesday) business meeting. The Motion draft was asking the RID for HELP in some form of legal defense for its members on this “front and center” matter.
The business meeting the following morning did not present the Motion for HELP by this ad-hoc committee but someones “ears were ringing” in the leadership circle. Read on.
From this FCC-OIG event, the overwhelming critical terms to understand;
STUDY THE WARRANT !
THIS IS FOR REAL AND COULD BE YOU!



Ethics defeat-
VI safe-harbor torpedoed


A blogger named Cousin Vinny shared his insight on the demise of the VI dial tone, expected ethics and confidentiality in a VRS call and the potential consequence of the big picture. The FBI is not asking interpreters to breach any kind of confidentiality…. From what I understand they are asking to be enlightened as to how the VRS companies have engaged in minute pumping techniques. VIs are able to give details of the types of calls that were being processed which would not necessarily include any names or content of the calls.
Well, the FBI are finding out about the content of the calls; otherwise, how can they determine whether they are ‘run calls’? And what if the FBI wants to bring conspiracy charges? They would want to know the identity of the callers making the run calls, or at least, a physical description thereof. Where’s the line?

Concerns about the confidentiality of the calls made to VRS providers are legitimate, and the FBI needs to carefully tread this line. They need to make limited and precise inquiries in order to resolve fraud and misuse now occurring in the industry. Otherwise, consumer confidence in the VRS industry could take a serious step back.”

There it is folks, a cornerstone of the RID that has been broadcast historically regarding confidentiality wounded.
The VRS industry indoctrinated “dial tone” position of VIs safeguarding deaf consumer rights has been compromised if not abandoned. Any certification modifications coming here ?


As if Monday could not provide any more intrigue on the subject, I attended the “new” Video Interpreter Member Section (VIMS)
that was previously known as the Video Interpreting Committee (VIC).I attended this meeting at 6pm to network further and see if this issue was penetrating the RID at some level beyond the current shuffle. I was not disappointed.
This room did not resemble any features of attendance or “buzz” that was encountered earlier, plenty of seats, but it did provide an ALL-STAR line-up to those who did make this seemingly innocent close for my day.
After a short introduction of VIMS history, leadership and purpose a sign-up sheet for VIMS contact was passed to the small group of approx. 30 when they were treated with an exclusive appearance of President (Cheryl Moose), Executive Director (Clay Nettles) and legal counsel of the RID.

I needed to rub my eyes and pinch myself. Not much of a crowd here. This must be the time and place where lightning strikes and thunder rumbles.

What followed was an excellent opportunity for some straight talk with substance.
Concerns discussed were the vague definition of a ‘fraudulent” call presented earlier by the FCC-OIG to how the code of ethics is WORTHLESS in a court of law.

Without question, Ms. Moose, Mr. Nettles and RID counsel were primarily confronted with the liability now faced by VI's. Specifically, the line of defense for IC VIs in the line of fire. It was noted by an attendee that VRS providers would only be obligated to protect their “employees” from any legal prosecution. This led to the “ no choice” option of RID in taking some RESPONSIBILTY in providing legal protection based on the premise that MEMBERS PAY DUESAND SHOULD BE ENTITLED as part of the organization representing ANY VI of question ! A dumbfounded expression with words of caution were returned from the RID counsel stating he has not looked into the matter and must research it more…



VI liability
no job, no money, no help


So what becomes of the VI caught in the crossfire of the fed making a case of run calls / m & m’s ? Well in the case of Mary K. Moylan of Catonsville, MD and other Viable employees…SUFFER
In July you get laid off, don’t get paid then you look for HELP.
The story of Ms. Moylans unfortunate episode went public in AugusREAD IT HERE
.

Moylan said she was not paid for several weeks, couldn’t find another job and was left with nowhere to go. This resulted in the state of Maryland stepping in to provide temporary relief and a trial for John Yeh, president of Viable for allegedly “failing to pay regular wages to an employee”. That trial was initially scheduled for Sept. 1 in Rockville, MD. But was postponed until October.

This story also mentions a separate civil contract claim filed by Moylan against Yeh that is scheduled to be heard Oct. 27.
As this on-line resource of community news now reveals, trouble mounts not only for Viable but for any good PR that the VRS industry needs to maintain for a good public image that relies on the TRS fund.
That river of Disneyland revenue that is getting more and more negative publicity in these cash-strapped times.es.

This became evident with Snap! VRS Acquiring Viable and “announcing” its efforts in “Maintaining Industry-Standard Ethical Business Practices” Viable has become a “hot potato” with respect to what can and DID GO WRONG with all the graduates of the Bernie Madoff Academy of Swindlers who are cheating the TRS fund and got caught.

And what happened to all the VIs that were banished from Viable?
On August 26, a class action lawsuit was filed in a Maryland District Court by 17 former “employees” against Viable Communications, Inc. owners, John Yeh, Mary Yeh and Joseph Yeh.
The focus is now on the Maryland state & federal courts as it takes the issue forward.

Dragnet to Five-O
where’s waldo ?


A GOOD or BAD thing ? Depends on what side of the fence you sit. There’s a lot going on and eyes are everywhere.
Events in Maryland and D.C. will determine how it ALL pulls together or apart and will play well into the future and impact the Atlanta RID conference in ‘11.
But lets be serious and try to keep this issue in perspective-Company 1 & 2 accounts for less than 2 % of the VRS market. A scant drop in the bucket of TRS fund expenditures.
Tripping over dollars to pick up pennies as they say.

If the FCC-OIG really wants to make an “impression of influence“ in uncovering fraudulent calls through financial crime of VRS providers , try looking elsewhere.
Maybe they are !?

More M&M “criminals” have yet to surface and face federal persecution with this on-going investigation.
And for the VIs for Company 1 & 2 that were smoked out to corner the “suspects”… they're likely to make the changes to avoid being “black-listed with consequence” again.

Otherwise, future video interpreters for VRS will have to make their way past the yellow crime scene tape and "enter at their own risk."

Maybe a career in VRS is not a good idea…

Stay tuned for more developments-



Other related info / resources.

The Wrong Side of The Law

FBI Raid-Minnesota

VIMS online discussion group,
send an e-mail to VIMSgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.