An Enfield man and Roanoke Rapids man are among six to be indicted by a federal grand jury in Greenville for mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud for their roles in an alleged scheme to obtain emergency rental assistance designated for households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina Michael Easley said in a statement today the fraud was committed by filing at least 44 fraudulent North Carolina HOPE program applications, resulting in the disbursement of more than $279,000 in proceeds in connection with the scheme.
The indictment was returned on September 14 and the final defendant was arrested and made his initial appearance Thursday.
Arkino Montrillis Williams, age 51, of Enfield is charged with four counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
Timothy Kelvin Harvey, age 41, of Roanoke Rapids is charged with eight counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
“The North Carolina HOPE program was meant to help struggling North Carolinians stay in their homes during an unprecedented public health emergency,” said Easley. “Those who took advantage of our nation’s generosity to defraud this and other relief programs will face criminal prosecution.”
According to the indictment, between June 2021 and February 2022, it is alleged that the six defendants, and others they recruited, falsely claimed to be landlords on properties that they neither owned nor served as a landlord to apply for rental assistance from the North Carolina HOPE program.
The North Carolina HOPE program utilized federal funding to assist renters who faced housing insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tenants applied for the program and eligible applicants and their landlords were provided an agreement certifying the accuracy of the application. Landlords participating in the program had to agree not to evict a tenant for a certain amount of time and were paid directly by the state.
If convicted, defendants face up to thirty years for each count.
The remaining defendants are:
Joe Lewis Jefferson, age 50, of Nashville who is charged with 22 counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
Danyael Davis Jefferson, age 50, of Nashville who is charged with three counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
John Lee Bass, age 49, of Rocky Mount who is charged with eight counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
Douglas Roberson, age 34, of Rocky Mount who is charged with four counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud.