Founder of Rockville deaf services company gets nine years for fraud
Yeh and his brother also ordered to pay $20M each
by Kevin James Shay, Staff Writer
Note: You can watch John Yeh’s video statement at court on YouTube.com here.
A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced John T.C. Yeh, former CEO of
Rockville deaf services business Viable, to nine years in prison and ordered
him to pay restitution of $20 million for his role in a multimillion-dollar
government fraud case.
His brother, former Viable vice president Joseph Yeh, received a prison
sentence of 55 months on Wednesday and also was ordered by Judge Joel A.
Pisano to pay $20 million in restitution.
In November 2009, John and Joseph Yeh were among 26 people nationwide to be
indicted for conspiring to defraud the Federal Communications Commission’s
Video Relay Service program, which helps deaf people communicate, by billing
the government for millions of dollars in illegitimate calls. They pleaded
guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in October 2010.
John Yeh is eligible for a credit of his prison term when he was held during
revocation of bail, according to records from U.S. District Court in
Paul F. Kemp, a partner with Ethridge, Quinn, Kemp, McAuliffe, Rowan &
Hartinger of Rockville who represented John Yeh, noted that prosecutors were
asking for 15 years in prison and the maximum prison sentence the brothers
faced was 20 years. He said Wednesday that he does not plan to appeal the
“I wish [the prison term] had been shorter, but the judge tried to be
fair,” Kemp said. “He was trying to find a middle ground.”
Stanley J. Reed, a principal with Lerch, Early and Brewer in Bethesda who
represented Joseph Yeh, also said Wednesday he does not plan to appeal his
“The judge did a superb job of balancing all of the issues and factors,”
Reed said. “Joseph and John are grateful for the amazing outpouring of
support they got from the community and the deaf community.”
About 100 people, many from the deaf community, traveled from across the
country and even from overseas to support the Yehs at the sentencing
hearing, Reed said.
About eight character witnesses testified on the Yehs’ behalf Wednesday,
which likely helped their case, Kemp said. “We were grateful to the
witnesses who came forward,” he said.
Pisano recommended to the Bureau of Prisons that the Yehs be incarcerated
together in a federal prison camp in Cumberland, to be close to family
members and be provided with all services they were entitled to under
federal disability laws.
During the four-plus-hour hearing Wednesday, the Yehs were “remorseful,
somber, scared and very focused on listening to everything the judge
said,” Kemp said. The Yehs are not eligible for parole but can receive five
days of “good time” per month credited against their prison terms, he said.
Pisano also sentenced both Yehs to three years of supervised release.
“It was a long journey to get here,” Kemp said. “We are glad that we had a
thoughtful, considerate judge.”
Two other former Viable executives, Anthony Mowl and Donald Tropp, are among
those who have pleaded guilty in the case. They are scheduled to be
sentenced by Pisano on Dec. 14 in New Jersey, according to court documents.
John Yeh has long been involved with organizations that advocate for the
deaf community, such as the National Asian Deaf Congress and National Deaf
Business Institute. He was a trustee of Gallaudet University, a Washington,
D.C., institution that specializes in education for deaf people, for more
than a decade. Deaf Life, a monthly national magazine founded in 1987,
honored him as its Deaf Person of the Year in 2008.
Yeh founded Viable in 2005 to develop and market real-time transcription
text and video relay services to help deaf and other hard-of-hearing people
communicate. Within three years, Viable had shot up from a handful of
workers to almost 200 full- and part-time employees, while annual revenues
exceeded $7 million.
But prosecutors said in court documents that Viable charged the government
for millions of dollars in illegitimate, or “run,” calls.
A previous business that John Yeh formed, software engineering and
integration company Integrated Microcomputer Systems, in Rockville with the
help of his brothers, reached $40 million in revenue in 1995 before he sold
it in 1996.