FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Damara Holness appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick M. Hunt on Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale to face federal charges for allegedly lying to get $300,000 that were intended to help small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Holness, 28, applied for $300,000 in Paycheck Protection Program aid on behalf of Holness Consulting, Inc with fraudulent payroll tax forms to allege her company employed 18 people and had about $120,000 in monthly payroll expenses — while she actually didn’t have any employees at all, prosecutors said.
FBI Miami special agents found a bank in Georgia approved her fraudulent application and wired $300,000 to the Holness Consulting, Inc bank account in Florida in July 2020 and she paid accomplices a fee to pretend they were her employees, endorse the checks and return them to her, prosecutors said.
Holness cashed the fraudulent checks at the company’s bank, prosecutors said.
Holness is the former president of the Broward County Democratic Black Caucus. She’s also the daughter of former Broward County Mayor Dale V.C. Holness, a current Broward commissioner who is running for Congress.
Damara Holness is facing charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Hunt released her from custody on a $100,000 personal surety bond.
Authorities are asking anyone with information about fraud related to pandemic-related aid to call the National Center for Disaster Fraud’s hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or submit a complaint online.
Damara Holness’ attorney, Sue-Ann Robinson, released the following statement Thursday morning:
“My client Damara Holness is a 28 year old single mom who despite having a high profile parent has had to chart her own path personally and professionally. There have been allegations made regarding her business and access to funds made available through the PPP loan program. Like everyone else, Ms. Holness is entitled to the presumption of innocence.
“Despite a full investigation by the feds confirming no involvement by her father or his campaign; there has been an unexplained rush to complete and publicize this indictment. It is unfortunate that the timing of these allegations against my client has seemingly been synced to allow it to be folded into her father’s campaign for federal office.
“Ms. Holness maintains her confidence in the judicial process and we stand prepared to have these allegations against her fully and fairly addressed by the Courts at the appropriate time.”
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