MARTINSBURG, WVa. — A Jefferson County man has admitted to government theft after a false unemployment claim.

The US Attorney’s Office says 44-year-old Joseph Phillip Downes, of Ranson pleaded guilty Friday to one count of Theft of Government Funds.

Downes was employed by CSX Transportation from July 2006 to April 2019. Downes collected unemployment benefits from June 2019 to August 2020, but admitted that he was, in fact, employed elsewhere during this time frame. Downes submitted 29 false claims to hide his employment, resulting in a theft of more than $18,000. Downes also received nearly $10,000 in CARES Act funds.

Downes also agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $27,902.08 to the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board.

Downes faces up to 10 years of incarceration and a fine of up to $250,000. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Danae DeMasi-Lemon prosecuted the case on behalf of the government. The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board Office of Inspector General investigated.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Trumble presided.