Former Quintillion CEO pleads guilty in Alaska fiber-optic fraud case
The woman who once headed a firm working on a fiber-optic project to link several Northwest Alaska communities has entered a guilty plea, after federal prosecutors said she forged potential clients’ signatures on contracts as part of a $250 million scheme.
Elizabeth Pierce, 55, made her plea Monday on one count of wire fraud and eight counts of aggravated identity theft, according to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman’s office. She had been charged in her role as Quintillion Ventures’ CEO, in what prosecutors said was a two-year scheme from mid-2015 to mid-2017 involving the use of falsely signed sales agreements to secure further investment.
Quintillion’s 1,400-mile line links Prudhoe Bay and Nome, before joining terrestrial networks in Fairbanks. The system was meant to eventually link London and Tokyo, but prosecutors said Pierce resigned shortly after the fraud was discovered by a Quintillion customer conducting a review of its invoices from the company.
“As she admitted today, Elizabeth Ann Pierce engaged in a brazen, multi-year scheme to obtain over $250 million from investors by misrepresenting that she had guaranteed revenue contracts with multiple telecommunications services companies,” Berman said in a statement. “But in fact, the defendant faked those contracts, forged other people’s signatures on them, and then lied to cover up her fraud. She abused her executive position and is now being held accountable for her crimes.”
Pierce is set to be sentenced May 16. She faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the wire-fraud charge, as well as two years apiece on the identity-theft counts.
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