The former owner of a used car dealership in Connellsville and his car salesman are wanted by federal agents for allegedly defrauding the unemployment benefit system.
Authorities say they falsified unemployment benefit claims for themselves and others, while taking a cut of funds others received during the covid pandemic, according to federal court documents.
Joshua DeWitt, 36, who was the owner of RC Auto Sales on Snyder Street, and his salesman, Terrence L. “Terry” Newmeyer, Jr., 45, both of Connellsville, were indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday , according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh.
According to federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh, the couple are accused of filing fraudulent claims for pandemic unemployment assistance benefits designed for workers and Paycheck Protection Program loans.
Both were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bank fraud, and two counts of mail fraud.
A federal judge in Pittsburgh signed the arrest warrants for the couple on Tuesday.
DeWitt and Newmeyer could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Both DeWitt and Newmeyer are accused of defrauding special benefits programs of approximately $340,000 in the complex scheme.
Facing state charges, too
They were charged by state police with more than 5,700 counts out of some 260 counts of operating a corrupt organization, trafficking in illegal proceeds and aiding in the commission of a crime.
Nine other people have also been charged in connection with the scheme. DeWitt and Newmeyer face a preliminary hearing Thursday before Connellsville District Judge Nathan Henning.
The federal indictment alleges that the couple fraudulently filed benefits for themselves and other unnamed individuals, from April 2020 to July 2021. The indictment did not state the amount of money they would have received thanks to the false requests.
DeWitt and Newmeyer used fraudulently obtained pandemic benefits for themselves, RC Auto Sales and employees, among others, by accepting the cash as payment for vehicles sold by the dealership and for repair services it provided, according to the indictment.
The grand jury found the couple misrepresented the nature of the money people submitted claims for, saying federal dollars could be used to buy cars from RC Auto Sales.
In some cases, recipients of fraudulently obtained benefits were told to go to the dealership to get their debit cards with unemployment benefits loaded onto the card, withdraw the money from a bank, and then give the money to the couple, according to the indictment.
The couple demanded “application fees” from those they fraudulently filed for benefits, according to the indictment.
“This case was the subject of a two-year investigation in conjunction with the Pennsylvania State Police and the United States Department of Labor,” Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower said.
Bower said his office developed “a thorough and detailed case” against the couple and contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh to review the investigation.
In May, the state attorney general’s office charged nearly three dozen people with fraudulently obtaining more than $3 million in pandemic unemployment assistance benefits.
In May, former Monessen resident Amanda Fairfax, 37, was sentenced in Pittsburgh to 18 months in federal prison for her conviction on five counts of mail fraud involving a different matter. Federal prosecutors said Fairfax wrongly filed PUA benefit claims on behalf of five people in June and July 2020, sending $66,240 to two addresses associated with Fairfax.