Two NC men get more than 2 years in prison for COVID-19 related fraud

CHARLOTTE — Prison time is the punishment for two local men who fraudulently applied for more than $100,000 in COVID-19 relief benefits, according to a release from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of North Carolina.

Joseph Ransome, 51, of Indian Trail, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for defrauding the COVID-19 Unemployment Insurance benefit program.

At the start of the pandemic, between March and July of 2020, Ransome applied for more than $163,000 in fraudulent unemployment benefits he wasn’t entitled to, court documents said. Ransome submitted fraudulent applications in multiple states including North Carolina, New York, New Jersey and elsewhere.

In his claims, Ransome made up false pretenses, like non-existent employment and fake reasons for termination, court documents said.

In one attempt, Ransome said he was laid off from Walmart due to COVID-19. He was actually fired for misconduct.

He also claimed to have worked at Target, BestBuy, Lowe’s and Hobby Lobby, then said he was laid off from some of the companies because of a COVID-19 diagnosis or lack of work. In reality, Ransome never worked for any of the companies, court documents said.

After his sentence, Ransome will serve three years of supervised release and be expected to pay $44,172 in restitution.

In a separate case, Bryon Jones, 66, will serve two years in prison after scheming to defraud the U.S. Small Business Administration of COVID-19 funds, the attorney’s office announced.

Jones used false and fraudulent business information to apply for and receive nearly $143,000 in relief funding for his business, Ramses Air Freight & Transport, Inc.

Jones was already serving a 10-year term of federal supervised release for a drug trafficking condition, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. His supervised release was revoked and he’ll now spend 24 months in prison with an additional five years of supervised release for the new violations.

(WATCH BELOW: More than 25 people report recent unemployment fraud to Action 9)