BY: STAFF REPORT | BocaNewsNow.com
PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) (Copyright © 2022 MetroDesk Media, LLC) — It’s a “guilty” plea from a South Florida political consultant who defrauded the federal government out of COVID-19 relief funds. The United States Department of Justice just issued this statement to BocaNewsNow.com at 1:23 p.m. Wednesday:
Today, 42-year-old Royal Palm Beach, Florida resident Omar Smith pled guilty in South Florida federal court to lying on a coronavirus relief loan application and fraudulently obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars intended to help small businesses financially survive the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the information to which he pled guilty, in June 2020, Smith applied for a $212,500 forgivable, federally guaranteed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan on behalf of A Star For I, Inc., a Florida company that he owned. It is alleged that to justify the requested loan amount, Smith claimed in the on-line loan application, and through supporting fraudulent payroll tax forms, that his company employed 30 people and spent an average of $85,000 each month on payroll. In fact, A Star For I, Inc had zero employees and no payroll expenses. A bank in Utah approved A Star For I, Inc.’s PPP loan application based on the lies and wired $212,500 to the company’s bank account in Florida, says the information.
Once the money hit the bank account in July 2020, Smith spent the next few months creating a paper trail to make it appear as if A Star For I, Inc. in fact had employees and was spending the PPP money on legitimate, approved expenses, it is alleged. According to the information, Smith issued checks from the company bank account made out to others who did little or no work for A Star For I, Inc.
Smith faces up to thirty years in prison and a fine of the greater of twice the gross gain or twice the gross loss or $1,000,000. United States District Judge Robin Rosenberg will sentence Smith on a date and time to be announced.
Smith has worked on political campaigns in South Florida.
Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Jay Bernardo, Acting Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami, announced the charges.
FBI Miami investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Kaplan is prosecuting it.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal law designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who 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).
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts.
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