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Maryland top abuser of free phone program

Updated: Friday, August 2 2013, 10:22 PM EDT

Maryland was cited as one of the biggest abusers of a controversial federal program which funds cell phones for people already receiving government aid.

During a hearing of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, experts said the number of recipients of free phones in Maryland was nearly twice the number that should be eligible. The high number of potentially ineligible beneficiaries ranked Maryland as the second highest target for fraud and waste in the country.

The program called Lifeline has grown exponentially since 2008 from $800 million to $2.2 billion. Funded by a charge on cell phone bills nearly 13 million people have signed up for a phone that subsidizes free minutes for at least a year.

Last year the FCC audited over 6 million beneficiaries and found nearly 40% could not provide proof that they were eligible for the program.

Maryland top abuser of free phone program

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