The Department of Justice charged the ex-chair of the FCC Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee for an alleged investment fraud scheme, the DoJ announced. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman alleged former Quintillion CEO Elizabeth Pierce used forged guaranteed revenue contracts to induce two New York-based investment companies to fund $250 million in a fiber optic cable project to connect northern Alaska communities to high-speed broadband. The network was launched in the state last year, reports Bloomberg.
Berman said the contracts were worthless because the customers had not signed them. The DoJ alleges Pierce forged signatures on contracts between May 2015 and July 2017, leaving investment companies “with a system that is worth far less than Pierce had led them to believe.”
The FBI and the DoJ became involved after a customer disputed a Quintillion invoice. Quintillion VP External Affairs Karen Woolston told Alaska Public Media, the company discovered the alleged fraud in 2017 and reported it to the DoJ. She said the company, its board and investors have been cooperating with the investigation since that time. “We are extremely disappointed in the situation, as you can imagine, but this remains a transformative project for Alaska, and our investors remain committed to the project,” Woolston said. “Quintillion is proud of the project we have built and are committed to expand the footprint of our fiber optic network,” she added.
Pierce was arrested last Thursday and charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. She was released on bail after a hearing, according to the DoJ. Read the full 17-page complaint.
Pierce was CEO of Quintillion from when it formed in 2012, until resigning in August of 2017. The Quintillion board of directors hired George Tronsrue III as interim CEO in August 2017.
Pierce was named BDAC chair when FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the formation of the group in April 2017. Noting that Pierce resigned from BDAC for personal reasons, Pai appointed BDAC member Elizabeth Bowles, President/Chair of Arkansas-based wireless provider Aristotle, as the new chair in September 2017.
April 17, 2018