RALEIGH – A federal grand jury in Greenville, NC returned an indictment charging six individuals with 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 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, 2023, and the final defendant was arrested and made his initial appearance Nov. 16.
“The North Carolina HOPE program was meant to help struggling North Carolinians stay in their homes during an unprecedented public health emergency,” said U.S. Attorney Michael 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 for 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.
The six defendants charged in the indictment could face up to thirty years for each count.
- Joe Lewis Jefferson, age 50, of Nashville is charged with 22 counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
- Danyael Davis Jefferson, age 50, of Nashville is charged with three counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
- Arkino Montrillis Williams, age 51, of Enfield is charged with four counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
- John Lee Bass, age 49, of Rocky Mount is charged with eight 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.
- Douglas Roberson, age 34, of Rocky Mount 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.
The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.