Eldon man pleads guilty to $437,000 COVID fraud scheme


Date: January 26, 2023

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Kansas City, MO — An Eldon, Missouri, man pleaded guilty in federal court today to his role in a scheme to use the identities of deceased people to file hundreds of false stimulus claims under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Lamar K. Johnson, formerly of Kansas City, Missouri, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government. Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced on June 21, 2023.

By pleading guilty today, Johnson admitted that he participated in a conspiracy to defraud the federal government from March 28, 2020, to April 15, 2021, by using stolen identities to file fraudulent claims. Co-defendant Warren W. Watkins, 40, of Kansas City, Missouri, pleaded guilty to the same offense on March 17, 2022, and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 5, 2023.

Conspirators used the identities of other people to file 238 false and fraudulent economic impact payment claims. Most of the individuals whose identities they used were deceased. Each claim sought a $1,200 economic impact payment available under the CARES Act, for a total of $285,600. Watkins also filed at least 28 false and fraudulent federal income tax returns in the names of other individuals seeking a total of $152,155 in income tax credits and refunds. The total attempted loss from both schemes was $437,755. The IRS paid $4,800 of the claims.

Watkins was associated with two Kansas City, Missouri, funeral homes; 226 of the individuals whose identities were used to file the false claims had received funeral services from the two funeral homes or a third associated funeral home.

Under federal statutes, Johnson and Watkins each are subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Mahoney. It was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation.