- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The U.S. federal government filed a lawsuit against Sprint Communications Inc. in a San Francisco court, alleging the company charged law enforcement agencies $21 million too much for wiretapping services.

The court-approved, court-ordered wiretaps were used by the likes of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Associated Press reported.

Communication companies are legally allowed to bill the government to recoup the costs of wiretaps. But they’re not allowed to over charge.

The suit claims that Sprint wrongfully passed along the costs of congressionally mandated wiretap equipment upgrades to the federal agencies. The Federal Communications Commission previously sided with the government in the matter, but the Department of Justice accuses that Sprint nonetheless received payments for the equipment upgrades it enacted between January 2007 and July 2010.

The Justice Department wants $63 million — a tripling of the amount it says the federal government actually lost, and a significant punitive damage for Sprint, if the jury finds in the feds’ favor. Sprint, meanwhile, denies the allegations.

“The invoices Sprint has submitted to the government fully comply with the law,” said Sprint spokesman John Taylor, in the AP report. “We have fully cooperated with this investigation and intend to defend this matter vigorously.”