Two members of a secretive church in North Carolina have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in an alleged unemployment benefits scheme.
Marion Kent Covington and Diane Mary McKinny were charged Thursday in U.S. District Court in Asheville.
Prosecutors say 63-year-old Covington and 65-year-old McKinney decided in 2008 to lay off employees at Covington's business so they could collect unemployment benefits. But the employees continued to work.
Most employees were members of the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, North Carolina. Prosecutors say Covington used his leadership position in the church to force them to comply.
The Associated Press reported in September that authorities were looking into unemployment-claims issues at congregants' businesses. That report was part of the AP's ongoing investigation into claims that church leaders had abused congregants for years.