Miami, Florida – Today, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 28-year-old Fort Lauderdale, Florida resident Damara Holness pled guilty 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 financially survive the Covid-19 pandemic.
As part of her guilty plea, Holness admitted that in June 2020, she applied for a $300,000 forgivable, federally-guaranteed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan on behalf of Holness Consulting, Inc., a Florida company that she owned. To justify the requested loan amount, Holness claimed in the on-line loan application, and through supporting fraudulent payroll tax forms, that her company employed 18 people and spent an average of $120,000 each month on payroll. In fact, Holness Consulting had zero employees and no payroll expenses. 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. 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. 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 the time of the alleged fraud, Damara Holness served as President of the Broward County Democratic Black Caucus.
If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.