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It is a program designed to make sure everyone has a way to make an emergency call for help. But a 19 Action News investigation shows it is being abused in the worst way.

A free cellphone program designed to help the elderly and most needy.

What Reporter Paul Orlousky found is that some of the most greedy have found a way to abuse the program.

You qualify for a free phone if you are needy. It’s automatic if you are on Medicaid, food stamps, SSI or six other government programs and meet income guidelines.

“You get a free phone and free minutes every month. It’s like a track phone, but they call it an Obama phone,” said one person whom did not wish to be identified.

In today’s politically charged atmosphere, the term Obama phone is a hot button. Even though the program has been around since 1998.

“It’s a helpful thing that you can take advantage of, but at the same time, Obama phone the term that’s given is really not a good term. It’s a turn off for real,” Cleveland resident Kevin Glover said.

Drug peddlers often can qualify and have been gobbling up the phones. If they don’t, they pay other people to get them for them.

Some of the first people to catch on to what was going on were defense attorneys. One told Orlousky he heard two of the drug suspects he represented talk about getting a new free phone or Obama phone as soon as he got out of jail.

“This is for emergency and there’s a lot of people out here that need ’em,” said one Clevelander.

“What’s your message to the drug boys?” asked Orlousky.

“Buy your own phone,” she replied.

Article Courtesy of WOIO 19 Action News