South Florida Political Campaign Consultant Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison For Defrauding COVID-19 Relief Program
MIAMI—Omar Smith, 42, of Royal Palm Beach, Fla., who has worked on South Florida political campaigns, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison and two years of supervised release for 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 he owned. 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.
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. had employees and was spending the PPP money on legitimate, approved expenses. Smith issued checks from the company bank account made out to others who did little or no work for A Star For I Inc.
Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and acting Special Agent in Charge Robert M, Dewitt, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.
FBI, Miami Field Office, investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Kaplan prosecuted 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 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. It does this by 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. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please click here .
Anyone with information about allegations of 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 the NCDF Web Complaint Form here.
You may find related court documents and information on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case number 21-cr-60229.