Couple claimed to run a farm at their small Miami home to defraud COVID-19 relief

MIAMI – A Miami couple pleaded guilty to filing fraudulent loan applications for over $1.1 million as part of the CARES Act. They claimed to have dozens of employees and run a farm at their small residential home — neither of which were true, according to the Department of Justice.

Latoya Stanley, 38, and Johnny Philus, 33, were charged in August and pleaded guilty Monday in federal court.

Investigators say they participated in a scheme to file four fraudulent loan applications seeking more than $1.1 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Authorities say Stanley claimed to employ 18 people at her company Dream Gurl Beauty Supply LLC in her PPP application and that Philus said he had 29 employees at his company Elegance Auto Boutique LLC.

Neither had any employees, investigators found.

“In her EIDL application, Stanley claimed to generate over $800,000 in income and to employ five individuals from a farm based in the yard of her Miami home,” a news release from the justice department said. “In his EIDL application, Philus claimed to generate $400,000 in income and to employ 10 individuals from a farm located in the yard of a small residential home. In actuality, Stanley and Philus employed no one and the farms did not exist.”

Investigators say the couple worked together to receive over $1 million in fraudulent funds from those applications before the schemes were discovered.

Their sentencing is scheduled for June 2.

DOJ asks that anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 to report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or online via the NCDF Web Complaint Form.

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