Elizabeth Ann Pierce, former head of the Federal Communications Commission's Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee, is facing up to twenty years in prison over her alleged involvement in a fraudulent investment fund worth over $250 million. Ms. Pierce was charged with wire fraud by federal prosecutors earlier this month and surrendered to FBI agents in New York last Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reports. She's alleged to have forged contracts meant to convince various entities to support the dubious investment fund which was fraudulently promoted between May of 2015 and July of 2017.
The FCC said Ms. Pierce resigned from her position on the BDAC in September, having thus chaired the committee for only five months. She was first picked to lead the body by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, with the goal of the unit being to advise on the regulator's efforts to facilitate and ultimately accelerate broadband buildouts in the United States. Ms. Pierce previously served as the Chief Executive Officer of Anchorage, Alaska-based telecom firm Quintillion Networks where she resigned in August for what were formally deemed personal reasons. In a statement provided to Alaska Public Media, Quintillion External Relations VP Kristina Woolston said the network equipment manufacturer discovered evidence implicating Ms. Pierce in a potential fraud and reported the matter to federal authorities at some point last year, without clarifying whether the development occurred before or after her resignation, i.e. whether the departure was directly prompted by the findings.
The body previously chaired by Ms. Pierce was repeatedly accused of taking too much input from the broadband industry it's meant to help regulate since the current administration took office in early 2017, with the latest such criticism coming from FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, one of the two Democrats on the commission. Mr. Pai himself is now said to be under an investigation over the Sinclair-Tribune merger led by FCC Inspector General David L. Hunt, also due to the implication that he took too much input on regulating industry consolidations from the industry itself. The investigation request was originally filed last November when Mr. Pai's office referred to it as "baseless."