McCrae Dowless pleads guilty to benefit fraud

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McCrae Dowless (Photo: Wake County Sheriff's Office)

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WWAY) — A key figure in a North Carolina investigation into ballot fraud in a congressional race has pleaded guilty to federal charges involving Social Security benefits.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh said Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. of Bladenboro entered the plea Monday in Greenville federal court.

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According to court documents, Dowless, 65, defrauded the Social Security Administration by concealing his work and income while receiving monthly benefits payments.

In February 2013, Dowless applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  In the application, Dowless claimed that he was unable to work due to a disability.

Dowless received SSI benefits until July 2018, when he applied for Retirement Insurance Benefits (RIB).  In his application for RIB, Dowless stated that he did not expect to work in 2018 and had not worked in the two years preceding his application.  Dowless received RIB benefits through November 2018.

Dowless was required to report certain events to the Social Security Administration, including changes in his work activity, income, or resources.

Unbeknownst to the Social Security Administration, Dowless worked as a consultant for at least two political campaigns during the 2018 Midterm Elections.

From March 2017 to November 2018, Dowless received at least 59 checks totaling $135,365.57 for consulting work.

Dowless failed to report his work and income to the Social Security Administration.

The charges carry a combined maximum sentence of 15 years.

Dowless still faces state charges involving the 2016 and 2018 elections.

He is accused of directing people to collect incomplete absentee ballots in a congressional race and making it appear that the voters had finished them.