Daughter of former Broward mayor fleeced thousands of dollars in campaign funds, feds say

The daughter of a former Broward mayor could spend decades in federal prison after being accused of fleecing thousands of dollars in campaign funds.

Richelle Holness faces conspiracy to commit wire fraud and fraud in connection to emergency benefits charges, according to a Dec. 27 court filing out of the Southern District of Florida. The alleged fraud occurred from April 2019 through October 2020, when Holness was the treasurer for her father’s campaign.

Her father Dale Holness served as Broward’s mayor from 2019 to 2020. In 2021, he narrowly lost the Democratic primary race to fill the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings’ vacant seat.

Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness
Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness

Holness, court records say, was responsible for maintaining the campaign’s bank account. Prosecutors say that Holness diverted funds from the campaign account to “unlawfully enrich herself.”

The scheme operated by Holness issuing checks from the campaign accounts to individuals and later filing memos that falsely stated the money was used for services like consulting, printing and data processing, according to prosecutors. The filing outlines several transactions, totaling at least $30,000.

The recipients of the checks would then cash them in and return the funds to Holness, either through Cash App or another check, court records state.

The money swindled went to personal expenses, such as liquor, fast food, airline tickets and clothing, according to court records. On a few occasions, it was used to pay the lease of a real estate business her father owns in Plantation.

In the court filing, prosecutors also accused Holness of making bogus statements, like claiming that she was unemployed as result of the pandemic, on an application for COVID-19 relief funds. It’s unclear how much money Holness may have obtained from the program.

Holness, however, isn’t the only family member to have faced federal fraud charges.

In 2022, Damara Holness, a Broward political consultant and daughter of former mayor Dale Holness, was sentenced to a year and eight months in prison. Damara pleaded guilty to stealing $300,000 from a federal program meant to help small businesses struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Richelle Holness will appear before a judge in Fort Lauderdale federal court on Jan. 10. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison on each charge.