The last person connected to Word of Faith Fellowship to face federal fraud charges in an unemployment benefits scheme has accepted a plea agreement.
Diane Mary McKinny reached an agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and is scheduled to appear before a federal judge Friday. McKinny, 65, of Rutherfordton, was indicted by a grand jury in June 2018.
She, along with her then-employer, Kent Covington, are accused of defrauding the government and teaching the scam to fellow members of the Word of Faith Fellowship Church in Spindale.
Her plea comes on the coattails of Covington’s agreement with the U.S. District Court.
Covington was sentenced to nearly three years in prison in April and ordered to pay $466,960 in restitution for his role in the unemployment fraud scheme involving businesses owned by members of the congregation.
Covington, a minister at the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in U.S. District Court in Asheville in June 2018. He pleaded guilty to the charge in September 2018.
McKinny faced a similar penalty and originally pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Prosecutors say Covington and McKinny laid off employees at one of Covington’s businesses so they could collect unemployment benefits in 2008 when the company was struggling financially. But the employees continued to work at the company, Diverse Corporate Technologies, with the unemployment checks replacing their salaries.
They allegedly later put the scheme into place at Covington’s other business, Integrity Marble & Granite.
Covington then implemented a variation of the scheme at Sky Catcher Communications Inc., a company he managed, prosecutors say.
Besides Covington and McKinny, two others were charged in the federal investigation. Dr. Jerry Gross, a podiatrist, and his son, Jason Gross, were sentenced in April 2019 to three years on probation and jointly ordered to pay restitution of $162,276 after admitting to fraud at a podiatry clinic in Forest City.
Both are listed as ministers on the church website.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.