FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler issued a Public Notice on July 14, 2014, announcing the creation of a new “Strike Force” to respond to concerns of waste, fraud and abuse in the Universal Service Fund (USF). Chairman Wheeler reiterated that “the Commission is committed to aggressively rooting out waste, fraud and abuse.” Operating within the Enforcement Bureau, the Strike Force is expected to boost the Commission’s USF enforcement efforts. The Strike Force will coordinate closely with the FCC’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) to enhance OIG efforts and build an additional layer of enforcement activities directed at alleged violations of USF programs and funds.
The initiative will be led by Loyaan Egal, a new member of FCC staff who previously served as a prosecutor in the Fraud and Public Corruption Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. Mr. Egal also served as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York leading complex investigations and prosecuting a multitude of cases. Since the new Strike Force will be a part of the Enforcement Bureau, all activities will be overseen by Travis LeBlanc, Acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. The Strike Force is still being formed within the Commission, but is expected to include prosecutors, investigators and forensic analysts. The new group is expected to investigate violations of all four of the USF programs. However, it would not be surprising to see the new Strike Force focus primarily on the Lifeline and E-rate programs.
The launch of the new Strike Force follows on the heels of the Bureau’s recent Public Notice announcing that Katherine Winfree will be the Bureau’s new Chief of Staff. Similar to Mr. Egal, Ms. Winfree is also a seasoned prosecutor having served as Chief Deputy Attorney General of Maryland.