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The Telephone Game

Nearly a year and a half after a scandal about purchasing involving the North Carolina Coin Tel Company has passed. The grand jury has finally indicted two people in the illegal activities.

The indictments handed down against D.R. Hursey and Michael A. Weaver focus on a $1.2 million dollar contract for maintenance of prison pay phones used by prisoners.

Hursey is the correction department's former director of departmental services, which controlled all purchasing for state prisons. Weaver was an AT&T account executive and one of the owners of Coin Tel Inc., the company that received the maintenance contract.

Auditors said the purchasing irregularities cost tax payers $7.2 million in wasted or misspent funds.

Former Corrections Secretary Aaron Johnson resigned last year in the wake of the purchasing problems. Six other officials either resigned, retired or were transferred to other state jobs.

According to the indictments handed down by the Wake County grand jury, Hursey and Weaver engaged in a bid rigging conspiracy between January, 1989, and September, 1992, that involved contracts for the purchase of telephones and telephone services. These included the collection of coins from prison pay phones, prison pay phone maintenance and management of phones located in the departments facilities.

One of the contracts was awarded to Coin Tel by Hursey without a formal bidding procedure. On that same day, Hursey's wife quit her job with the Corrections Department. She later went to work for a company owned by Coin Tel's officers.

The indictments said that the vendors involved in the contracts were AT&T, M.A. Weaver and Associates and Coin Tel.

Other indictments include:
The Corrections Department paid Coin Tel $1,093 for maintenance and services before the phones had actually been installed.
The Corrections Department paid Coin Tel $15,633 for services on pay phones that were never installed.
Coin Tel collected fees to provide maintenance services on prison pay phones even though the department had already paid the company $82,245 for maintenance on the same phones during the same time period.

With all the fraud taking place within the scope of the Corrections Department and questionable activity by the Operator Service Providers it's not hard to understand why it costs so much more for prisoners to call home or why prisoners are being ridiculed by the operators. Prisoners are being punished for the activities involved in the system and within the carrier companies.

If this type of fraud is taking place in the North Carolina system it would only be logical to assume that this type of fraud and criminal activity is to be found in other systems in other states.

Readers from many states have questioned the contracts between the correctional system, and the carriers involved in the prisoner telephone OPS. Perhaps it is time to also question the fraud that may be involved in the contracted services. This type of criminal activity within the system and the contracted services is the reason prisoner pay phone calls are higher than outside service calls. It is high time we got the criminals out of the management offices and into cells where they belong.
MI Creations
P.O. Box 2403
Burlington, NC. 27216

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