Home 17 individuals charged in COVID scheme; claims filed on behalf of Virginia inmates

17 individuals charged in COVID scheme; claims filed on behalf of Virginia inmates

business money
(© SkyLine – stock.adobe.com)

A federal grand jury in Abingdon returned an indictment charging 17 individuals with conspiring to defraud the United States by filing fraudulent claims for pandemic unemployment benefits.

A May 21 grand jury has charged the following individuals in connection with COVID-19 emergency benefits and mail fraud related to a scheme involving filing claims on behalf of inmates at Haysi Regional Jail in Dickenson County.

In total, the defendants allegedly stole $341,205 in pandemic relief to which they were not entitled.

Individuals charged by the grand jury:

  • Josef Ludwig Brown
  • Crystal Samantha Shaw
  • Jonathan Scott Webb
  • Christopher Kirk Webb
  • Stephanie Amber Barton
  • Haleigh McKenzie Wolfe
  • Terrence Brooks Vilacha
  • Cara Camille Bailey
  • Jessica Dawn Lester
  • Brian Edward Addair
  • Russell Eric Stiltner
  • Joseph Frederick Hass
  • Daneil Wayne Horton
  • Justin Warren Meadows
  • Jason Dale Worley
  • Jeramy Blake Farmer
  • Clinton Michael Altizer

According to court documents, in March 2020, Josef Brown, Jonathan Webb and Crystal Shaw began their scheme to steal money intended for legitimate victims by gathering the dates of birth, social security numbers and other personal identification information of friends and acquaintances incarcerated and then filling out pandemic unemployment claim forms for each of the ineligible inmates via the Virginia Employment Commission’s website dedicated to pandemic relief.

“The COVID-19 global pandemic significantly influenced the world economy and caused increased unemployment and jobless claims throughout our country,” said Christopher Kavanaugh, United States Attorney. “Many Virginians who lost their jobs due to the pandemic were able to endure because of the CARES Act.

“However, some cheated the system and diverted resources intended to help those most affected by the pandemic, and my office remains committed to not only recovering fraudulently obtained funds but also vigorously prosecuting those responsible.”

As part of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee task force, this investigation was conducted by the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.