Cable companies collect millions in grants, leave towns without service

Print
Email
|

by Chris Nagus / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on October 31, 2012 at 10:32 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 1 at 2:52 PM

(KMOV.com) -- Two CEO’s figured out a way to tap into millions of your tax dollars.All the while they were leaving a path of destruction in small towns across Missouri and Illinois.  

According to records News 4 uncovered, two companies were awarded huge government payouts, That is a shock to some of the communities where these guys did business.  3 different towns had one unwanted connection, a tangled web leading to a Chicago apartment building and an office building outside of Dallas.

Dan Lange is the city administrator in Bowling Green, Missouri. His town has tried repeatedly to get a hold of the guy in charge of Crystal Broadband Networks: the towns unauthorized cable provider.

“They just took over the network, they have never been authorized” said Lange.

The townspeople complained of spotty cable service.  Lange complained because the company stopped paying property taxes and franchise fees.

“We have not collected any of those monies at this point,” he said.

In 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture announced $2.8 million worth of grants to Crystal Broadband Networks for the installation of broadband service in rural areas of Ohio, Kentucky, Arkansas and West Virginia, but the funds haven’t been dispersed.

That made us wonder if it’s because of what happened just down the road in Elsberry, Missouri.

The city attorney, Robert Guiness, sued Crystal Broadband Networks over the same issues as Bowling Green; he also sued Almega Cable, Crystal Broadband Networks and another debacle.

“You had to follow the bouncing ball and the ball bounced a lot,” said Guiness. He won the lawsuits with two seemingly unrelated companies.

Almega was also good at tapping the government for handouts.

According to records we uncovered it was one after another.

 

$1,248,259 in Arkansas

$1,380,840 in Virginia

$621,610 in Texas

 

But when it’s their turn to pay up that’s another story.

Across the Mississippi River in Winchester, Illinois there is another nightmare brought to town thanks to Crystal Broadband Networks and Almega Cable.

“They at no time received authority to transact business in the city,” said city attorney John Coonrod.

The town doesn’t even know how much it’s owed because Crystal Broadband Networks failed to provide a customer count to Winchester city officials.

“The city would probably be due fees in the thousands of dollars we are unable to determine the amounts without the information,” said Coonrod.

So who are these guys?

Crystal Broadband Networks is run by a guy named Nidhin Johnson. Almega Cable is run by a guy named Thomas Kurien.

Crystal Broadband Networks headquarters is supposedly a storefront in Chicago, instead there’s a tax business.  

But the apartment building connected to the storefront does list a tenant “N Johnson.” There’s also a mailbox with the name “Kurien.”

The man who answered the door confirmed both CEO’s lived in the building at one point.

That is strange because Almega’s corporate address is inside a Dallas office building. But just like with Crystal’s HQ, they weren’t there either. 

When News 4’s called the number listed the Almega, the only message was “you have reached the cable company.”

And when we tried to call Crystal Broadband Networks CEO, the message played out “you have reached Nidhin Johnson please leave me a message, mailbox is full goodbye.”

Today Elsberry, Bowling Green, and Winchester are without cable service all together. They just wish they had someone to ask why.

News 4 reported all this information to the USDA.They tell us the grants awarded to Almega provided broadband in towns ranging from 80 to 700 people. Now they’re checking into whether those programs are sustainable.

Print
Email
|