HARRISBURG (WKBN) – An inmate originally from Columbiana is among several others accused of getting thousands of dollars in COVID-19 unemployment benefits illegally.
A total of 20 inmates and accomplices in three state prisons in central and eastern Pennsylvania are facing charges. They’re accused of somehow being involved in two rings, or organized groups, that worked to get COVID-19 unemployment benefits by putting false information on applications.
The investigation claims Todd Butler, who is an inmate at SCI Benner in Centre County, gave his name, birthdate and Social Security number to one of the ringleaders, Adele Moore, so she could file for unemployment on Butler’s behalf. Butler was able to get $9,930.
Prisoners are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits while serving their sentences. Applying for them means they’re breaking federal and state laws, and that could result in decades of additional prison time.
Butler is serving a sentence for a crime he committed in 1999 when he was 19 years old. According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, he went out drinking and target shooting with friends at Pennsylvania State Game Lands in Beaver County. The friends persuaded two Columbiana County women, ages 21 and 18, to come with them. Later that night, Butler shot the women at close range in what a trooper described as a “kill for thrill.”
Investigators claim Butler was part of the first and larger fraud ring.
They said Moore, who was not an inmate, and James G. Neff Zonge, who was an inmate, started the fraud ring. They’re accused of getting personal information from inmates to apply for COVID-19 benefits. The inmates would get a portion of the benefits but Moore would often keep the majority, investigators said.
In total, the SCI Benner ring was able to get $153,470 in fraudulent unemployment benefits.
The second ring was operated out of SCI Mahanoy in Schuylkill County and was able to get $109,900.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro said those who are charged took away benefits “from hardworking Pennsylvanians who are struggling during this crisis.” He said they’ll continue investigating to find more people who were involved.
Members of SCI Benner ring:
- Adele Moore (ringleader) – resident of State College, Pennsylvania
- James G. Neff Zonge (ringleader) – inmate
- Todd A. Butler – inmate
- Michael C. Lyter – inmate
- Ronald E. Baker – inmate
- Derek L. Young – inmate
- James E. Sullivan – inmate
- James M. Leidig – inmate
- Joseph E. Klecha – inmate
- Jacob P. Snook – inmate
Members of the SCI Mahanoy ring:
- Wendy Danfora (ringleader) – resident of York, Pennsylvania and Markal Munford’s girlfriend
- Markal Munford (ringleader) – inmate
Other inmates at SCI Phoenix arrested on fraud charges with no known links to a ring:
- Jermaine Plumer
- Rafael Rodriguez
- Dwayne Washington
- Leroy Barnes
- Andrew Simms
- Dexter Pitts (aka Kevin Perry)
The ringleaders could face over 60 years in prison, and the others could face over 40 years.
More stories from WKBN.com: