On March 12, 2020, Deaf LIFE magazine announced their new “Deaf LIFE Honors Blue Ribbon Committee” with an image on display in a Facebook post. The image features a background silhouette in gold of a man portrayed after George Veditz with the sign of “honor,” slated next to eight photos of the Committee members, organized in two rows and four columns. The Committee members are Deanna Bray, Shana Gibbs, Paul Johnston, Aaron Kelstone, Matthew Moore, Melvin Patterson, Cynthia Sanders, and John Yeh.
The committee is “comprised of Deaf people with good standing in the community, and who understand the importance of honoring Deaf achievers” (Deaf LIFE Honors Announcement). The same announcement also stated that Deaf LIFE subscribers and DLH [Deaf LIFE Honors] Committee members are eligible to vote for finalists.
Some community members saw this announcement and could not help but notice the last name, John Yeh. Yeh was released from prison last year on April 18, 2019, and he is best known for his association with Viable Communications, Inc.
For those who are not familiar, let’s rewind to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice on November 19, 2009: “Twenty-six Charged in Nationwide Scheme to Defraud the FCC’s Video Relay Service Program.” The actions of 26 individuals led the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] to take a closer look at practices in the VRS industry.
Four Viable Communications executives were convicted for fraud in generating falsified VRS call minutes and receiving reimbursements from the FCC for those calls in the tens of millions of dollars, by making it look like Deaf Americans had legitimate calls with hearing persons when it was not the case. Owner and Chief Executive Officer John Yeh, Chief Operating Officer Joseph Veh, Vice President Anthony Mowl, and Human Resources Director Donald Tropp (U.S. Department of Justice).
John Yeh has since been placed on a supervised release for three years. Due to Yeh’s participation in fraudulent activities against the FCC, he will have to pay restitution in the amount of $20 million, the largest ever levied against a VRS Fraud defendant (tied with his brother, Joseph). Viable was not the only provider that was charged in the nationwide scam.
With this, community members have responded with confusion that Deaf LIFE owner Matthew Moore, who also selected the committee members, would place John Yeh on the Blue Ribbon Committee which has the criterion of individuals being in “good standing” with the Deaf community. Yeh has yet to complete his three years of supervised release or paid off the restitution of 20 million dollars. It is not clear how Yeh could possibly be in good standing with the Deaf community, nor is there enough information on how Moore arrived at this decision.
It is worthwhile to note that Deaf LIFE made John Yeh the Deaf Person of the Year for 2009, the same year Yeh was charged for VRS fraud.