Damara Holness, daughter of Congressional candidate Dale Holness, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a one-count information charging her with lying on a coronavirus relief loan application and fraudulently obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars intended to help small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities said.
The 28-year-old committed the crime of conspiracy to commit wire fraud when she lied on her application and supporting documents to receive a forgivable and federally-guaranteed $300,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan on behalf of her company, Holness Consulting, Inc., in June 2020, according to federal prosecutors.
Holness used fraudulent payroll tax forms to justify the requested loan amount and falsely stated that her company employed 18 people, spending an average of $120,000 a month on payroll, the prosecutors said.
In truth, Holness Consulting had no employees or payroll expenses, the prosecutors said. A bank endorsed 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.
“Once the money hit the bank account in July 2020, Holness spent the next few months creating a paper trail to make it appear as if Holness Consulting had employees and was spending the PPP money on legitimate, approved expenses, it is alleged,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District said in a written announcement. “Holness issued checks from the company bank account made out to others who agreed, for a fee, to help with the fraud. “
At Holness’ direction, the people receiving the checks would endorse and return them to Holness, prosecutors said. 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 cash for herself – about $1,000 per check.
At or around the time of the alleged fraud, Holness served as President of the Broward County Democratic Black Caucus, prosecutors said.
Her sentencing is scheduled for January 20, 2022. She faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Her father, Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, held a slight lead Thursday as votes continued to be processed in the U.S. House District 20 primary race.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.