Phones for Heroin
You know when you sign up for your agreement on your telephone and they give you a monthly price, and then
when you get the bill, you find the surprises that go to taxes and fees? Ever wonder what those pay for? We do of course. You can say the government does all you want, or even Obama (hence the Obama Phone term), but the fact is WE DO.
The program didn’t start with Obama as some would think.
The Lifeline program began in 1984, before cell phones were commercially widespread. Since mobile phones were added to the program in 2008, a Vitter spokesman told MailOnline, costs related to non-land line phones have increased twelve-fold.
The phones’ legitimate purposes include poverty-level job applicants’ use as contact numbers for job interviews and emergency contacts for children of single parents.
Not a bad deal, most wouldn’t consider it a hardship to contribute to something like that. However, like every government program it is subject to abuse. If you don’t care about abuse, go ahead and pay your phone bill and think nothing of it, but if you do care read on.
Undercover video shot in May by a conservative activist shows two corporate distributors of free cell phones handing out the mobile devices to people who have promised to sell them for drug money, to buy shoes and handbags, to pay off their bills, or just for extra spending cash.
The ‘Obama phone,’ which made its ignominious YouTube debut outside a Cleveland, Ohio presidential campaign event last September, is a project of the Federal Communications Commission’s ‘Lifeline’ program, which makes land line and mobile phones available to Americans who meet low-income requirements.
Lifeline was a $2.19 billion program in 2012.
>But when James O’Keefe, whose Project Veritas is a perennial thorn in the side of progressive policymakers, sent an undercover actor into a Stand Up Wireless location in Philadelphia, the man’s stated purpose was to buy drugs.
‘Once you guys give me this phone, it’s my phone?’ he asked an employee inside a Philadelphia brick-and-mortal Stand Up Wireless location. ‘I can, like, sell it and stuff?’
‘Whatever you want to do with it,’ the worker replied.
‘So I’m [going to] get some money for heroin,’ he offered.
The employee coolly responded, ‘Hey, I don’t judge.’
Inside an outdoor tent erected by Stand Up Wireless in the City of Brotherly Love, an O’Keefe plant probed a sales rep on May 21.’Once it’s my phone, I don’t need to, like, bring it back or anything?’ he asked, while the female worker shook her head in the negative. ‘It’s my phone, right?’
‘Mm-hm,’ she responded.
‘If you’re interested in learning — wanting to know how much the phone’s worth,’ the woman offered later in the conversation, ‘[I] recommend you go to any pawn shop. They’ll be more than happy to tell you, OK?”OK,’ the actor replied. ‘So I could get the phone and then sell it?’
‘Yeah,’ she said, ‘I don’t care what you do with it.’
A TerraCom Wireless salesman performed with similar disregard for federal law.
One young woman, posing as a low-income citizen on May 8 during a Terracom promotional giveaway in Minneapolis, asked plainly if she would be permitted to sell her new phone.
‘It’s kind of like, the first thing that I do is this here,’ the TerraCom rep responded, referring to the required paperwork. ‘And unfortunately there are people on drugs. They get this phone, and they go get $40. … You basically do whatever you want to do with it. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.’
‘Well, I’m not on drugs,’ she replies, ‘but there is a really awesome pair of shoes at the store that I want.’
In mere seconds the TerraCom worker is seen breaking into uproarious laughter.
‘You gonna own it,’ he says in O’Keefe’s video footage. ‘But if you sell it, you can tell the person that they will have a phone for every month. Every month for the next year they will have a phone. They ain’t got to worry about [a] phone. There’s no bills.’
There are, in fact, bills, but they are covered by Americans who pay for their own phone service. Both land line and mobile bills in all 50 states and the District of Columbia include a Federal Universal Service Charge, a portion of which subsidizes the program.
That makes the program a handout to both lower-income Americans and the companies that supply the phones. To many on the political right, the enterprise has been twisted beyond any semblance of its original purpose.
But there’s more. SOMEONE is making money on this program, aren’t they? It’s not just Americans footing the bill, SOMEONE gets paid.
Like industry leader TracFone, which has received more than $1.5 billion – including $440 million in 2012 alone – to provide phones to 3.9 million recipients, StandUp and Terracom behave more like corporate titans than good Samaritans.
TracFone is owned by Mexican multibillionaire Carlos Slim Helu.
Stand Up Wireless’s parent company, Global Connection Inc. of America, has collected more than $38 million for its subsidized phones. The company itself is owned by Milestone Partners, a venture capital firm based in Radnor, Pennsylvania.
The Oklahoma-based TerraCom Wireless has harvested a total of $168 million for its participation across 23 states. Its self-described ‘sister company,’ YourTel America, Inc., has reaped nearly another $103 million.
I guess this is even more corrupt than even known.
The Terracom Wireless sales rep also raised the possibility that non-citizens might be obtaining phones subsidized by charges on taxpayers’ phone bills.
‘Obama is being really nice, anybody that’s $16,000 [salary] or less’ can qualify, he says.
‘Anybody. If you might be American, anybody that makes $16,000 or less.’
News reports have documented fraud in the Lifeline program for years.
‘Time and time again, I saw people sign up while texting and talking on their own cell phone,’ reported Chris Nagus of KMOV-TV in St. Louis.
‘I signed up for two already,’ one recipient told him. Another admitted to having four.
Jeff Barnd ofÂ WBFF-TVin Baltimore talked with one woman in 2012 who had an even larger collection of ‘Obama phones.’
‘I have six in my purse now,’ Monique Crawford told him. ‘Each and every one of these phones works. At home I know I have about 30 and all of them are on.’