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Eldon’s man pleads guilty to $437,000 COVID fraud scheme

An Eldon, Mo. man pleaded guilty in federal court to his role in a plan to use the identities of deceased people to file hundreds of fake stimulus requests under Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security ( CARES) Act.

Lamar K. Johnson, 41, formerly of Kansas City, Mo., pleaded guilty before US District Judge Stephen R. Bough to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government. Johnson is expected to be sentenced on June 21, 2023.

Pleading guilty, Johnson admitted to participating in a conspiracy to defraud the federal government from March 28, 2020 to April 15, 2021, using stolen identities to file fraudulent claims. Co-defendant Warren W. Watkins, 40, of Kansas City, Mo., pleaded guilty to the same charge on March 17, 2022, and is expected to be sentenced on April 5, 2023.

The conspirators used the identities of other people to file 238 false and fraudulent Economic Impact Payment claims. Most of the people whose identities they used were deceased. Each request required an Economic Impact Payment of $1,200 available under the CARES Act, for a total of $285,600. Watkins also filed at least 28 false and fraudulent federal tax returns on behalf of other individuals seeking a total of $152,155 in income tax credits and refunds. The total loss attempted by both schemes was $437,755. The IRS paid $4,800 of the claims.

Watkins was associated with two Kansas City, Mo. funeral homes; 226 of the people whose identities were used to file the false complaints had received funeral services from the two funeral homes or a third, associated funeral home.

Under federal statutes, Johnson and Watkins are each subject to sentences of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum legal penalty is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on advisory sentencing guidelines and other legal factors.

This case is being pursued by Assistant US Attorney Kate Mahoney. He was investigated by the IRS-Criminal Investigation.

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