Three South Florida people have been charged with collaborating in a $24 million loan scheme to bilk a federal program meant to aid businesses ailing from the coronavirus pandemic, authorities said. It is the state’s largest alleged fraud case involving the Small Business Administration’s relief program.
The defendants, arrested this week and granted bonds in Fort Lauderdale federal court, are accused of submitting 90 loan applications to the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program that Congress authorized after the virus struck the country in March. The SBA guaranteed more than $17 million in bank-issued loans to the defendants and other co-conspirators, according to FBI criminal complaints filed by the U.S. Attorney Office against each of them.
The three are accused of participating with others in a conspiracy to apply for falsified loans from the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program — in connection with a related South Florida scheme that extended to Ohio where other defendants have been charged, prosecutors said.
The defendants, Damion O. McKenzie, 38, of Miami Gardens, Andre M. Clark, 46, of Miramar, and Keyaira Bostic, 31, of Pembroke Pines, are charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy offenses. Their arraignments are scheduled for Nov. 18.
Bostic’s defense attorney, Lawrence A. Hashish, said he won’t be able to review the prosecution’s evidence in the investigation until the defendants are charged by indictment — a delay caused by the pandemic’s impact on the federal courts and temporary closure of the grand jury.
“I cannot comment on the case because I won’t be able to see the evidence until after my client is indicted and arraigned,” Hashish said Friday.
McKenzie’s and Clark’s attorneys did not return messages seeking their comment.
This spring, Congress allocated nearly $650 billion for SBA-guaranteed PPP loans to American businesses to cover employee payrolls and other expenses such as rent — loans issued by banks and forgiven by the government if used for the right purposes. But the program has been exploited by certain applicants, authorities said, including a Miami man who obtained $4 million in SBA loans for his moving company and spent a chunk of the money on a Lamborghini.