MIAMI, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Before the Honorable Judge Rodolfo Ruiz, Damara Holness, 28, a resident of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Pleaded guilty to one count. accusing him of lying about an application for a coronavirus relief loan and fraudulent obtaining of hundreds of thousands of dollars intended to help small businesses financially survive the Covid-19 pandemic.
As part of her guilty plea, Holness admitted that in June 2020, she applied for a $ 300,000 repayable Paycheck Protection Program (P3) loan on behalf of Holness Consulting, Inc., a Florida company she owned. To substantiate the loan amount requested, Holness claimed in the online loan application and supporting fraudulent payroll tax forms that his company employed 18 people and spent an average of $ 120,000 per month on wages. In fact, Holness Consulting had no employees and no salary expenses. A bank approved by the Small Business Administration to fund PPP loans approved Holness Consulting’s PPP loan application based on the lies and wired $ 300,000 to the company’s bank account in Florida.
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Once the money reached the bank account in July 2020, Holness spent the next few months creating a paper trail to make it look like Holness Consulting had employees and was spending the PPP money on legitimate, approved expenses. , is it alleged. Holness issued checks from the company’s bank account on behalf of others who agreed, for a fee, to help with the fraud. At Holness management, the people receiving the checks endorsed them and returned them to Holness. Then Holness would cash the checks at the company’s bank, give a few hundred dollars to the check endorsers, and keep the rest of the money for herself – about $ 1,000 per check.
At or around the time of the alleged fraud, Damara Holness served as chair of the Broward County Democratic Black Caucus.
The information to which Holness pleaded guilty charged her with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Sentencing is scheduled for January 20, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. She faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $ 250,000.
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Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Miami, announced the guilty plea.
The Miami FBI has investigated this matter. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Kaplan is prosecuting him. The assistant of the American lawyer Emily Stone deals with the confiscation of the assets.
The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) law is a federal law designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who have suffered financially from the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of hundreds of billions of dollars in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses through the Paycheck Protection Program ( PPP).
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On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General created the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Working Group to mobilize the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with government agencies to strengthen efforts to combat and prevent the pandemic fraud. The Working Group strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable national and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud, among other methods, by scaling up and integrating mechanisms coordination, identifying resources and techniques for uncovering fraudulent actors and their programs, and sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts. For more information on the Ministry’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.