Jamaican man arrested for COVID loan fraud in Florida

Federal prosecutors in the US have charged 42-year-old Jamaica-born Omar Smith, a resident of Royal Palm Beach, Florida, with lying on a coronavirus relief loan application and fraudulently obtaining more than US$200,000 intended to help small businesses survive the pandemic.

A statement from the US Attorney’s Office in Southern Florida said information filed in federal district court in Fort Lauderdale on May 9, 2022, showed that in June 2020, Smith applied for a US$212,500 forgivable, federally guaranteed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan on behalf of A Star For I, Inc, a Florida company that he owned.

It is alleged that to justify the requested loan amount, Smith claimed in the online application and through supporting fraudulent payroll tax forms that his company employed 30 people and spent an average of US$85,000 each month on payroll.

“In fact, A Star For I, Inc had zero employees and no payroll expenses. A bank in Utah approved A Star For I, Inc’s PPP loan application based on the lies and wired US$212,500 to the company’s bank account in Florida,” the statement said.

Once the money hit the bank account in July 2020, Smith, who reportedly attended a prominent all boys’ high school in Jamaica, allegedly spent the next few months creating a paper trail to make it appear as if A Star For I, Inc, in fact, had employees and was spending the PPP money on legitimate, approved expenses.

According to the information, Smith allegedly issued cheques from the company’s bank account made out to others who did little or no work for A Star For I, Inc.

The information charges Smith with conspiring to commit bank fraud and wire fraud. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to US$1 million. 

Smith has worked on political campaigns in South Florida.

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