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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Iowa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, August 20, 2020

Three Men Charged with COVID-19 Related Unemployment Fraud

Two Men Charged with Mail Fraud and Another with Wire Fraud

Alvin Lavon Rex, age 61, of Schaller, Iowa, Jerry Johnson, age 54, of Webster City, Iowa, and Brian Whorton, age 54, of Marion, Iowa, were all charged with COVID-19 related fraud offenses.  The charges are contained in separate complaints and an indictment recently filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa in Cedar Rapids and Sioux City. ­

The complaints and indictment separately allege that each of the three men fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits related to COVID-19 relief funds to which they were not entitled.  Rex and Johnson are charged with mail fraud and Whorton is charged with wire fraud. 

If convicted each man faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release following any imprisonment.­  All three men have appeared in federal court and were released without bond.

As with any criminal case, a charge is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

These cases are being prosecuted by multiple Assistant United States Attorneys and investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Department of Labor - Office of Inspector General, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Storm Lake Police Department.  Assisting in the investigation are the Sac County Sheriff’s Office, the State of Arizona’s Unemployment Insurance Benefit Fraud Investigation Unit - Office of Inspector General, the State of Massachusetts’s Program Integrity Unit - Department of Unemployment Assistance, and the State of Ohio’s Benefit Payment Fraud Control Unit - Department of Job and Family Services.

Rooting out COVID-19 fraud is a priority of the Department of Justice.  On March 27, 2020, the President signed the CARES Act, which provides emergency assistance to individuals, families, and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including increased unemployment benefits. 

These prosecutions are an example of the Department of Justice’s strong commitment to combating fraud and criminal activity related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  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 Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.   

Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl

The case file numbers are 20-CR-4062, 20-CR-3027, and 20-CR-0064.

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Topic(s): 
Coronavirus
Financial Fraud
Component(s): 
Updated August 20, 2020