A 42-year-old Royal Palm Beach political consultant was sentenced this week to 15 months in prison for lying to get $212,500 in loans designed to help businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic.
Omar Smith, who served as an adviser to failed Democratic congressional candidate Dale Holness and others, repaid the loan before he was sentenced after pleading guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
While Smith’s attorney pushed for house arrest, U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg agreed with prosecutors that he deserved to be sent to prison for bilking the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
“His personal greed and selfishness took away from government funds intended to provide relief to such struggling businesses and employees who desperately needed those funds in order to survive the pandemic,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Kaplan wrote in court papers.
Further, Kaplan said, Smith was able to reimburse the government because he didn’t pay an estimated $250,000 in federal income taxes in 2018 or 2020. Also, he said, Smith owes about $24,000 in child support.
When he applied for the loan, Smith falsely claimed his business, A Star For I, had 30 employees and an average monthly payroll of $85,000. Instead, FBI agents said, in 2019 through July 2020 the company had no employees and no income.
Kaplan said Smith earned $160,000 in 2018 working on the unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign of Andrew Gillum. Defense attorney Rogell Levers disputed the claim, adding that any work Smith did for the Democrat was irrelevant.
Smith’s take of the loan proceeds was about $89,000, Kaplan said. Smith used the money to pay for his personal expenses.
About $42,000 went to an unidentified person who helped Smith prepare the loan application, Kaplan said. In an attempt to evade detection, Smith also sent roughly $75,000 worth of checks to friends to make it appear they were working for his company.
But, Kaplan said, they admitted to agents that they didn’t do any work. Smith told agents that he gave $10,000 to a friend from college because “she wanted to buy something nice.”
Smith is among a growing list of people who have been charged with submitting phony applications to get PPP loans.
Since the program were created in March 2020 as part of an economic stimulus package, more than 80 people have been charged by the South Florida U.S. Attorney’s Office with bilking the federal government out of more than $150 million.
Jane Musgrave covers federal and civil courts and occasionally ventures into criminal trials in state court. Contact her at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: PPP fraud sends Royal Palm Beach political consultant to federal prison