A prominent minister in the Word of Faith Fellowship Church in Spindale, North Carolina has been indicted in an unemployment benefits scheme.
Marion Kent Covington and his employee Diane Mary McKinny, also a member of WOFF, were both indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Covington is so prominent in the church, he is considered a son-in-law by church leader Jane Whaley, say former members. Former members also tell 7 News that McKinney worked as a bookkeeper for Covington’s businesses.
This is the same charge that two WOFF ministers Jerry and Jason Gross were charged with in May.
The indictment reads that starting in 2008 Covington started an unemployment scheme at his business Diverse Corporate Technologies. The company laid off nearly all of it’s employees. The indictment goes on to say that Covington told the remaining employees that they would be placed on unemployment benefits, but expected to work full time to help the business survive.
The indictment states that Covington used his position in his church, which we know to be Word of Faith Fellowship, to coerce his employees to comply with this. DCT received at least 6 months of free labor due to their alleged scheme.
The indictments go on to allege that Covington helped 5 other businesses owned or managed by himself and other leaders at Word of Faith. That includes the Gross’, another member with the initials J.F.
In total, they believe the Covington’s took $250,000 worth of fraudulent unemployment benefits from the state of North Carolina.
The Gross’ pleaded guilty to their charges in late May and will be sentenced at another date. The U.S. Attorney’s Office states that the Homeland Security Investigations Division, The NC State Bureau of Investigations and Department of Labor assisted in this case.
Covington’s wife, Brooke is also facing charges in an assault case against former member Matthew Fenner. Her case ended in a mistrial due to jury tampering in 2017. A new trial has not been scheduled.