Cricket Settles Allegations That It Overcharged Feds for Wiretapping

Cricket Communications has agreed to fork over nearly $2.2 million to resolve claims that it overbilled federal law enforcement agencies for the costs of conducting wiretaps and pen registers, federal authorities announced this week.

Telecommunications companies are authorized to recuperate their “reasonable expenses” in providing facilities or aid to a court-ordered wiretap or pen register, which captures call identifying information, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.

“A joint investigation by the Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorney’s Office revealed that Cricket overcharged federal law enforcement agencies for executing wiretaps and pen registers from 2007 until Cricket lowered its fees in 2010,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in the press release. “The settlement agreement resolves the United States’ civil claims against Cricket based on the overbilling.”

The settlement reflected a coordinated effort among the United States Attorney’s Office, and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Inspector General.

Cricket, the prepaid wireless carrier, was acquired by AT&T in March.

“The allegations and investigation pre-date AT&T’s acquisition of Cricket earlier this year, and we opted to work with the DOJ on a settlement instead of litigate the issues,” AT&T spokesman Marty Richter told Ars Technica in an email.

According to a CBS News article published last year with contributions from the Associated Press, AT&T imposes a $325 activation fee for each wiretap and $10 a day to maintain it while Cricket charges roughly $250 per wiretap. The data was based on disclosures to Edward Markey, then a Congressman for Massachusetts and now a U.S. Senator.

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