El Paisano

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s Ex-Advisor Tricks Companies into Investing Over $250 Million

FCC+Chairman+Ajit+Pai%27s+former+advisor%2C+Elizabeth+Price+had+been+involved+in+the+scheme+for+two+years.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's former advisor, Elizabeth Price had been involved in the scheme for two years.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's former advisor, Elizabeth Price had been involved in the scheme for two years.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's former advisor, Elizabeth Price had been involved in the scheme for two years.

Elizabeth Pierce, former CEO of FCC lead-man Ajit Pai’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC), has been arrested for wire fraud after using “forged guaranteed revenue contracts” to trick companies into investing over $250 million in a fiber-optic company. The news came April 12, courtesy of a press release issued by the Department of Justice.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey S. Berman and a New York FBI Assistant Director, William F. Sweeney Jr. are the men who charged Pierce with the crimes. In the press release announcing the arrest,  U.S. Attorney Berman said:

“To realize her plan to build a fiber optic system that would service Alaska and connect it to the lower 48 states, Elizabeth Ann Pierce allegedly convinced two investment companies that she had secured signed contracts that would supposedly generate hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed future revenue from the system.”

Pierce had been running the scheme since May 2015, providing the two investment companies with forged contracts. The scheme would have kept going on, but one of Pierce’s customer caught on.

“It’s important for stakeholders to maintain a certain level of awareness into how their investments are being managed,” the FBI agent, Sweeney Jr. stated. “In this case, thanks to a customer who was paying close attention to their invoices and noticed something was up, Pierce’s alleged scheme began to fall apart.  The false agreements she tried to pass off as legitimate didn’t add up. In the end, her alleged crime was discovered.”

Besides being the CEO of the BDAC, Pierce was the first chair of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC)  broadband committee. Pierce resigned from her CEO position in September 2017 for “personal reasons.”

As FCC Chairman, Pai had worked closely with Pierce and believed she had been doing an “excellent job” up until her resignation. Now, with the charges she has been dealt with, the 54-year-old Pierce could be facing up to 20 years in prison.

U.S. Attorney Berman praised the FBI’s work with cracking down on Pierce, and FBI agent Sweeney Jr. believes Pierce’s case shows the federal bureau takes these things seriously.

“[Pierce’s] charges highlight our commitment to detecting financial crimes of all kinds,” Sweeney Jr. said, “and protecting those victims who invest their hard-earned money with those looking to make an easy profit.”

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s Ex-Advisor Tricks Companies into Investing Over $250 Million