This week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai imposed a $49.6 million forfeiture of funds against a fraudulent businessman and his companies for violating the Commission’s rules. Albert Hee, a Hawaiian businessman who received millions in taxpayer money from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund over 15 years, was called out for fraud.
In a statement, Pai said that Hee, the sole shareholder of Sandwich Isles and its parent company Waimana Enterprises, used corporate funds for personal expenses instead of supporting the “deployment and maintenance of communications networks” to benefit the residents of the Hawaiian Homelands.
In 2016, Hee was sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison for using taxpayer money intended to support the deployment and maintenance of communications networks. Instead, he used the money for vacations, his children’s college tuition, vehicles, inflated salaries for his wife and children, and $90,000 in expenses to a personal masseuse, according to the Commission.
The FCC is in the midst of recovering $27 million in overcharges from Sandwich Isles and proposing a forfeiture of $49.6 million on the company. Hee made a “willful effort to defraud the Universal Service Fund” for private gain; this is one of the Commission’s largest forfeitures ever imposed, Pai stated.
According to the Chairman, next month, bidding will begin for a $16 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction for Hawaii. The auction will encourage service providers to use funds to bring broadband to the Sandwich Isles’ underserved areas since Hee misappropriated funds and failed Americans living in the Hawaiian Homelands.