The former CEO of an Anchorage-based telecom was sentenced on Friday to five years in prison after pleading guilty to defrauding New York investors of more than $270 million.
Elizabeth Ann Pierce, 55, former CEO of Quintillion Networks, convinced investments firms that she had secured contracts for high-speed fiber optic systems that would generate millions of dollars in revenue. As it turned out, the contracts were forged. Pierce was still negotiating the deals with telecommunications companies. When they fell through, her scheme was exposed to the company.
The FBI investigated the criminal allegations. The case was prosecuted by the Justice Department’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan, in some cases, Pierce created fake copies of existing revenue agreements to include terms that appeared more favorable to Quintillion. In other cases, she invented revenue agreements that didn’t exist.
While convincing investment firms to provide more than $270 million to construct a fiber optic cable system in northern Alaska, she also swindled two individuals out of $365,000. In exchange, they were promised ownership interests in Quintillion. They received neither shares in the company nor their money back.
The Justice Department said Friday that she used half of one of the victim’s money and all of the other victim’s funds “for her own personal benefit.”
“When her scheme started to unravel, she tried to delay exposure with yet more lies and forged documents. She will now serve five years in prison for her crime,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.
Pierce was additionally ordered to forfeit nearly $870,000 and was sentenced to three years of supervised released.
Quintillion, which cooperated with authorities during the investigation, said in a statement last year that it became aware of the situation with Pierce and self-reported to the Justice Department. The allegations of her conduct, it said, “are not aligned with how Quintillion conducts business.”
Pierce was tapped in April 2018 by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to lead the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC). Pai created the committee to advise FCC commissioners on how to accelerate the deployment of high-speed internet access.
The BDAC was re-chartered last month with Elizabeth Bowles, president of the Arkansas-based internet provider Aristotle, serving as chair.
Chairman Pai did not respond for comment.