Centre County inmates, accomplices charged with COVID-19 benefits fraud

Local News

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — Attorney General Josh Shapiro has charged 20 inmates and accomplices in three state prisons linked to at least two existing groups who conspired to give false information on COVID-19 unemployment benefit applications, the largest of which came from Centre County.

The first and larger ring was operated out of State Correctional Institution (SCI) Benner in Centre County. The second ring was operated in Schuylkill County, out of SCI Mahanoy, Shapiro reported.

The Benner ring included two ringleaders and eight additional co-conspirator inmates. Adele Moore, of State College, and James G. Neff Zonge, an inmate at SCI Benner, began operating the fraud ring out of SCI Benner after Moore successfully applied for COVID-19 unemployment benefits on behalf of Neff Zonge. Moore and Neff Zonge established a system in which Moore would use an inmate’s personal identifying information, apply for COVID-19 benefits from her address, and then give the inmate a portion of the collected benefits.

“After announcing our first round of arrests in these COVID unemployment scams, I promised that there were more to come,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “Today, 20 more individuals have been charged with illegally taking benefits away from hard-working Pennsylvanians who are struggling during this crisis.”

According to the release, the SCI Benner ring obtained a total of $153,470 in COVID-19 unemployment benefits.

The Mahanoy ring included two ringleaders, Wendy Danfora and Markal Munford, as well as two additional inmates. Danfora, of York, also took the personal identifying information of her inmate co-conspirators to apply for COVID-19 unemployment benefits. As part of the scheme, Danfora gave a portion of the benefits to the inmates but kept the majority for her personal use. In total, the SCI Mahanoy ring obtained $109,900 in fraudulent COVID-19 unemployment benefits.

Members of the Benner ring include:

Adele B. Moore: Not incarcerated and resides in State College, Centre County. Moore first filed for PUA for herself and for inmate Jacob Snook. Moore then conspired with Neff Zonge to file PUA for inmates Butler, Lyter, Baker, Young, Sullivan, Leidig, and Klecha. Moore received a total of approximately $7000.00 from the inmates for filing the applications and from two of the inmate debit cards that she received for the inmates at her residence.

James G. Neff Zonge: Inmate at SCI Benner from State College, Centre County. Neff Zonge first had Adele Moore attempt to file PUA for him. His PUA was filed but not approved. Neff Zonge then provided the names of his inmate associates from inside SCI Benner. Neff Zonge provided Moore with the name, DOB, SSN, and mailing address for inmates Butler, Lyter, Baker, Young, Sullivan, Leidig, and Klecha. Neff Zonge received approximately $3000.00 from the inmates for help filing PUA.

Todd A. Butler: Inmate at SCI Benner from Columbiana, Ohio. Todd Butler provided his name, DOB, and SSN to Neff Zonge to have Adele Moore file for PUA for him. Butler received $9930.00 in UC payments.

Michael C. Lyter: Inmate at SCI Benner from Harrisburg, Dauphin County. Wife now lives in Perry County. Lyter provided his name, DOB, mailing address, and SSN to Neff Zonge to have Adele Moore file for PUA for him. Lyter received $12,315.00 in UC payments.

Ronald E. Baker: Inmate at SCI Benner from Glen Rock, PA, York County. Baker provided his name, DOB, mailing address, and SSN to Neff Zonge to have Adele Moore file for PUA for him. Baker received $13,110.00 in UC payments.

Derek L. Young: Inmate at SCI Benner from Watsontown, PA, Northumberland County. Young provided his name, DOB, mailing address, and SSN to Neff Zonge to have Adele Moore file for PUA for him. Young received $9930.00 in UC payments.

James E. Sullivan: Inmate at SCI Benner from Hawley, PA, Wayne County. Sullivan provided his name, DOB, mailing address, and SSN to Neff Zonge to have Adele Moore file for PUA for him. Sullivan received $9930.00 in UC payments.

James M. Leidig: Inmate at SCI Benner from Chambersburg, PA, Franklin County. Leidig provided his name, DOB, mailing address, and SSN to Neff Zonge to have Adele Moore file for PUA for him. Leidig received $22,245.00 in UC payments.

Joseph E. Klecha: Inmate at SCI Benner from Montrose, PA, Susquehanna County. Klecha provided his name, DOB, mailing address, and SSN to Neff Zonge to have Adele Moore file for PUA for him. Klecha received $12,315.00 in UC payments.

Jacob P. Snook: Inmate at SCI Benner, From Bellefonte, Centre County. Snook was the first of the SCI Benner inmates to successfully commit PUA fraud. Snook received $10,125.00 in UC payments.

Total Theft: $109,900

Members of the Mahanoy ring include:

Wendy Danfora: Co-Conspirator from York, PA, York County. Danfora is the girlfriend of inmate Markal Munford, who is incarcerated at SCI Mahanoy. Danfora conspired with Munford to file for PUA benefits for themselves, family members and other inmates at SCI Mahanoy.

Markal Munford: Inmate at SCI Mahanoy, Frackville, PA, Schuylkill County. Munford provided the names, dates of birth, and social security numbers for other inmates through prison communications to his girlfriend, Danfora, starting at the end of May 2020.  They frequently discussed the scheme during their telephone calls. Danfora kept the funds to spend on herself and three children.  Between Danfora and Munford, they are responsible for at least 13 fraudulent filings, which total $78,994.

Inmates at SCI Phoenix who applied for fraudulent COVID-19 unemployment benefits include:

Jermaine Plumer: Received $18,264.00 worth of PUA paid out after he provided personal identifying information to non-incarcerated individuals.

Rafael Rodriguez: Received $22,109.00 worth of PUA paid out after he provided personal identifying information to non-incarcerated individuals.

Dwayne Washington: Received $3,510.00 worth of PUA paid out after he provided personal identifying information to a non-incarcerated individual.

Leroy Barnes: Was never paid, but did provide his personal identifying information to a non-incarcerated individual to have them complete a PUA application on his behalf.

Andrew Simms: Was never paid, but did provide his personal identifying information to a non-incarcerated individual to have them complete a PUA application on his behalf.

Dexter Pitts a/k/a Kevin Perry: Received $3,150.00 worth of PUA paid out after he provided his personal identifying information to a non-incarcerated individual.

If you believe you have been a target or victim of coronavirus-related fraud, please report it to the Attorney General’s tip line at pricegouging@attorneygeneral.gov.

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