Two WoFF members accept plea in federal wire & unemployment fraud case

ASHEVILLE —Two Word of Faith Fellowship church members are facing wire federal fraud charges in connection with an unemployment insurance benefits fraud. The Associated Press released their investigative report last year and revealed that several former members made similar allegations against several businesses owned by WOFF members. Those members stated that they’d been interviewed by the SBI and US Department of Homeland Security. According to former members, the scheme was to help business owners continue their tithing to the church during a downturn in the economy

According to to the US District Attorney, Dr. Jerry Gross says he aided and abetted his son, Jason, who filed the fraudulent paperwork in a scheme to defraud the state. The scheme involved placing four Foot & Ankle Center of the Carolinas employees on unemployment insurance benefits while employees including Gross and his son continued to work for the Forest City business in excess of what the law allowed.

The filings occurred between September 2009 and March 2013. The news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office says the scheme created a free labor force for the business. The maximum penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The two have accepted a plea agreement. Both are shown as ministers in the Word of Faith Fellowship website.

 Jason Lee Gross made UI Benefits claims on behalf of the laid off employees, including himself and his father. Jason Lee Gross certified the initial eligibility for UI Benefits of each of the employees, and continued to certify their eligibility on a weekly basis for the UI Benefits they received. Jason Lee Gross did so despite knowing that at least four of the employees regularly failed to comply with the program eligibility requirements, including by regularly working in excess of the hours allowed by the program.

According to the charges, the loss amounted to $149,970.