South Florida political consultant who defrauded Covid-19 relief program headed to federal prison | USAO-SDFL

Miami, Florida – A Federal District Judge in Fort Lauderdale today sentenced 29-year-old Damara Holness to 20 months in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for lying on a relief loan application against coronavirus and fraudulently obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars intended to help small businesses financially survive the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, Holness must pay $300,000 in restitution.

In 2020, Holness applied for a federally backed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) $300,000 repayable loan on behalf of Holness Consulting, Inc., a Florida company she owned. 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 payroll, which was not true. . A bank in Georgia approved Holness Consulting’s PPP loan application based on the lies and wired $300,000 to the company’s bank account in Florida.

Once the money reached the bank account, Holness drew checks from the company’s bank account payable to others who agreed, for a fee, to assist in the fraud. The people receiving the checks endorsed them and returned them to Holness. Then Holness would cash the checks at the company’s bank, give about $300 to the endorser of the check, and keep the rest of the money for herself, about $1,000 per check.

Damara Holness is a former chair of the Broward County Democratic Black Caucus.

Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Miami, announced the sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Rodolfo A. Ruiz, II.

The FBI Miami investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Kaplan prosecuted him. Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Stone handles the asset forfeiture.

The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) is a federal law designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who have suffered financially from the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the sources of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of hundreds of billions of dollars in small business forgivable loans to maintain jobs and certain other expenses through the Check Protection Program. payroll (PPP).

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to mobilize Department of Justice resources in partnership with government agencies to scale up enforcement and prevention efforts. pandemic-related fraud. The task force strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies administering relief programs to prevent fraud, among other methods, by increasing and integrating coordination mechanisms existing ones, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their agendas, and sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts. For more information about the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Anyone with information about alleged attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 866-720-5721 or via NCDF’s online complaint form at: https://www. .justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

Court documents and related information can be found on the District Court for the Southern District of Florida website at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under file number 21-cr-60229.

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