Kent Covington to plead guilty- Whaley named in court document

By John Huddle

Printed with Permission

MARION — On Monday, it was reported on the radio that Governor Cooper named Mac McKeller to a judgeship. McKeller was the court appointed attorney for Diane McKinny appointed to Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) member, Diane McKinny. McKinny was indicted on Federal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Marion Kent Covington was named alongside McKinny in the scheme which obtained several thousand dollars from filing fraudulent unemployment claims for several companies where most employees were WOFF members.

Recently filed court documents have McKeller asking for a continuance and a withdrawal from representing McKinny. Diane McKinny’s court date has been moved to January 7, 2019, 9 a.m. in Courtroom 1 at the US Federal Courthouse in Asheville.

In other court documents filed in the case against Marion Kent Covington for the same charges, Attorney Stephen Cash requested and was granted an extension of time to work out details of a plea agreement. The new deadline was October 26th. In documents filed yesterday, the “Factual Basis” outlined several important aspects of the case.

First, the document was not meant to give all the facts known about this case.

“This Factual Basis is filed pursuant to Local Criminal Rule 11.2 and does not attempt to set forth all the facts known to the United States at this time. By their signatures below, the parties expressly agree that there is a factual basis for the guilty plea that the defendant will tender pursuant to the Plea Agreement, and that the facts set forth in the Factual Basis are significant to establish all of elements of the crime. The parties agree not to object to or otherwise contradict the facts set forth in the Factual Basis.”

This paragraph leaves open for additional actions which the Government may take involving this scheme. The next few paragraphs outline the scheme in brief and then leads into a detailed breakdown of how the unemployment programs worked during the years in question. The reporting requirements were detailed. Maneuvering around these requirements took forethought.

Starting in paragraph #23- the document outlines the steps taken by Covington and McKinny to manipulate the required reporting and the employees involved. The crisis in the national economy was put forth as a reason for the scheme. The explanation makes it clear not every employee at the companies involved were used in the fraud scheme. The details of the scheme for Diverse Corporate Technologies, Inc (DCT) go through paragraph #31.

This document mentions other companies involved in this scheme besides DCT. These companies include Foot and Ankle Center of the Carolinas, P.A.- Dr. Jerry Gross. (he pled guilty), Carolina Outdoor Design owned by James “Randy” Fields, Integrity Marble and Granite, (IMG)- owned by Covington and Sky Catcher Communication, Inc- a business managed in part by Covington. The document makes it clear the other owner of Sky Catcher was not involved in the scheme.

As the progression of the unemployment act unfolds, paragraph #32 holds some revealing language. Directly from the Factual Basis:

“After successfully implementing the scheme at DCT, COVINGTON and MCKINNY, along with others, such as the leader of their church community, Jane WHALEY, promoted variations of the scheme to other businesses, including other businesses owned or managed by COVINGTON. These conspirators promoted the scheme as a way for community businesses to weather the financial downturn.”

#33 tells about the Foot and Ankle Center’s involvement in the scheme.

#34- “The third business to implement a variation of the scheme was Carolina Outdoor Design, owned by James Randall FIELDS. FIELDS went to WHALEY, the leader of the church community, for guidance on how to steer his business through the economic downturn, and WHALEY advised FIELDS to speak about the matter to COVINGTON. FIELDS did speak to COVINGTON…”

U. S. Attorney, R. Andrew Murray and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel V. Bradley will evaluate Jane’s role, if any, in the scheme.

From the resource document,

“#40 COVINGTON therefore admits to being guilty of the offense charged in Count One of the Bill of Indictment.”

Details of the plea agreement were not disclosed. The next hearing on this case will be October 30, 2018 at 10 a.m.  in Courtroom 2.

A review of previous legal actions follows:

  • Dr. Jerry Gross pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection to this scheme. Awaiting sentencing…
  • Jason Gross pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with this scheme. Awaiting sentencing…
  • Marion Kent Covington pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with this scheme. Documents filed today indicate Covington will now plead guilty to one count of wire fraud, possibly as early as this coming Tuesday.
  • Diane M. McKinny will be assigned another court appointed attorney after pleading not guilty. Her next court date is January 7, 2019.

The court documents explain Jane Whaley’s involvement in the scheme followed by the sentence, “These conspirators promoted the scheme as a way for community businesses to weather the financial downturn.”