Federal prosecutors charged Omar Miguel Smith with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud to fraudulently obtain a PPP Covid-19 relief loan on Monday. Smith is former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness’ campaign guru. In 2020, REDBROWARD was first to expose Smith’s controversial $300,000 PPP loan for his marketing company A Star For I.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, on his application for a $212,500 forgivable, federally-guaranteed Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan on behalf of A Star For I, Inc., “Smith claimed in the on-line loan application, and through supporting fraudulent payroll tax forms, that his company employed 30 people and spent an average of $85,000 each month on payroll. In fact, A Star For I, Inc had zero employees and no payroll expenses.” A Utah bank approved A Star For I, Inc.’s PPP loan application “based on the lies and wired $212,500 to the company’s bank account in Florida.”
Prosecutors alleged that after the money was deposited in July 2020, Omar Smith “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 issued checks from the company bank account made out to others who did little or no work for his company.
The U.S. Attorney charged Omar Smith with conspiring to commit bank fraud and wire fraud. If convicted, Smith faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
Last month, Damara Holness, daughter of Dale Holness, started a lengthy prison sentence in Mariana, Florida for PPP loan fraud. Like Smith, Damara Holness was accused of making up employees and writing checks to accomplices to hide her fraud. According to authorities, Holness never returned more than $180,000 in cash.
REDBROWARD has documented Omar Smith’s extensive role in Dale Holness’ political campaigns and the campaign of Holness’ political allies. REDBROWARD was first to expose Omar Smith’s role in creating shady political action committees supporting Holness and his allies. The committees include the Federal political committee known as “People of Principle.”
New records show a company owned by Dale Holness’ “campaign guru” received a $212,000 Pandemic Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to save thirty jobs. Last September, REDBROWARD exposed how Omar Smith’s A Star For I, Inc. company received a PPP loan despite collecting payments from Dale Holness and his allies during the COVID-19 lockdown. At the time, it appeared Smith applied for a PPP loan as a sole proprietor. Political insiders doubt Omar Smith’s company ever had a payroll with thirty employees.
Last week, Dale Holness’ daughter Damara Holness was arrested on a conspiracy to commit wire fraud to fraudulently obtain a PPP loan. Last August, REDBROWARD exposed Damara Holness’ laughable claim she owned a company with eighteen employees and a $1.4 million dollar payroll. Damara Holness used Dale Holness’ business address to obtain a $300,000 PPP loan.
Days later, REDBROWARD exposed how Richelle Holness, another daughter of Dale Holness, also received a PPP loan. Like Damara, Richelle Holness appears to be heavily involved in Dale Holness’ political operations. When REDBROWARD revealed Richelle Holness’ ties to a shadowy political committee, Omar Smith reached out to REDBROWARD to ask for a favor. With a female screaming in the background, Smith asked REDBROWARD TO redacte the name of Dale Holness’ ex-wife from the story.
How many members of the TEAM HOLNESS political operation received federal loans?
A company owned by Broward Mayor Dale Holness’ controversial campaign consultant received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan for up to $350,000, records show. According to news organizations tracking the COVID-19 relief program, A Star For I, Inc. received approval for a loan between $150,000 and $350,000 on June 1, 2020. As REDBROWARD previously reported, A Star For I, Inc. is owned and operated by Omar M. Smith, Dale Holness’ campaign “guru.”
Even though PPP loans were intended to be used on employee payroll, these organizations state A Star For I, Inc. reported zero employees on its loan applications. Self-employed business owners were eligible for PPP loans.
According to Marketwatch.com:
After much confusion, it’s now clear that self-employed individuals who have no employees, and therefore no actual payroll expenses, can qualify for PPP loan forgiveness by simply paying themselves so-called owner compensation replacement. The amount that can be forgiven is based on your 2019 net self-employment income and can be up to 100% of the loan amount. However, the maximum loan amount for a self-employed person with no employees is $20,833.
How did A Star For I, Inc. receive nearly ten times more for “owner compensation replacement” than average self-employed business owners?
But why was A Star For I, Inc. seeking “compensation replacement” at all?
HOLNESS CONSULTANT PAID THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS DURING LOCKDOWN
According to the Florida Division of Elections, Omar Smith’s company received 14,188 from political campaign after receiving a six-figure PPP loan. This includes a July 9, 2020 payment of $1,500 by George Odom’s judicial campaign and and a July 30, 2020 payment for $10,200 by former Broward Judge Ian Richards.
Broward election records show Omar Smith made even more money from his work as Dale Holness’ campaign consultant. Holness is seeking re-election for his District 9 seat this November. Holness has no Republican opposition, just an unknown write-in candidate.
According to Holness campaign reports, Omar Smith/A Star for I, Inc was paid $46,750 as a consultant. More than $31,000 was paid after the COVID-19 lockdown.
In July, REDBROWARD exposed how Broward Mayor Dale Holness’ campaign team appeared to be behind a mysterious federal political committee backing mostly black candidates. Records show Holness’ longtime campaign marketing guru Omar Smith is tied to the “People Over Principle PAC.” These same records show the committee has failed report any money contributions or expenditures as required by law.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show People of Principle PAC was created by Charmalin Brown in January 2019. Brown used the address of a Margate UPS store as the headquarters for the political committee. In April 2019, Charmalin Brown purchased the domain name currently used by People Of Principle PAC.
State corporation records show Charmalin Brown, a tax preparer, started a business in 2006 using Omar Smith as her registered agent. Brown used a home on the 300 block of Berenger Walk in Royal Palm Beach as her business address. Numerous records show Omar Smith uses the same Berenger Walk address.
Federal records show People of Principle PAC has never reported its financial information. The FEC sent “failure to file” notices on August 15, 2019, February 19, 2020 and May 1, 2020 to the committee.
In addition to costs used to purchase domain and rent a mailbox at the Margate UPS Store, People Of Principle PAC is spending money on advertisements promoting Broward candidates. These candidates included Dale Holness, George Odom and Ian Richards.
In January 2018, REDBROWARD exposed the roles Omar Smith and County Commissioner Dale Holness played in Dean Trantalis’ Fort Lauderdale Mayoral campaign.
Florida Division Of Elections records show Sophia A. Nelson is the chairperson of the “A Better Florida For All” political committee. The address for this political committee is the same address found on a December pro-Trantalis email sent to Fort Lauderdale voters by “FlyerSmith.”
Division of Elections records show Omar Smith is the treasurer of the “A Better Florida For All” political committee.
On December 7, 2017 A Better Florida For All hosted a fundraiser for Dean Trantalis. According to an announcement posted on the group’s Facebook page, the A Better Florida For All event was being held at 4325 West Sunrise Boulevard in Plantation. This is the address for All Broward Realty, a company owned by Dale Holness.
In October 2018, Buddy Nevins of Broward Beat reported on four local judicial candidates appearing the endorsement card produced by A Better Florida For All. The card promoted Democrat candidates most notably Andrew Gillum. Nevins wrote, “Four Broward lawyers running for judge could end up in trouble for appearing to violate state Code of Ethics for judicial candidates. Partisan appeals judicial candidates’ ads are forbidden by the Florida Supreme Court Code of Judicial Conduct. Joint advertising by judicial candidates is also prohibited.”
Omar Smith talked to the Sun-Sentinel about the palm card controversy. Smith “insisted this week that none of the candidates were picked because of financial ties to the political action committee or to any of Smith’s businesses, which perform campaign services.”
Shortly thereafter, the State of Florida revoked the registration of A Better Florida For All. Smith failed to properly submit paper to the Florida Division Of Elections. Attempts to contact Smith failed.
In November 2018, Omar Smith made national headlines when Project Veritas showed undercover video of him calling Florida a “cracker state.” Smith was working for the Andrew Gillum campaign.
While some Gillum supporters claimed Omar Smith did not work for the campaign, financial records show otherwise. According to Florida Division of Elections records, the Andrew Gillum campaign paid Smith’s company, FlyerSmith, $50,000 in August 2018.
Also, the Project Veritas video appears to have been recorded inside Dale Holness’ real estate office in Plantation.
ANOTHER HOLNESS CONSULTANT AND PPP
Last month, REDBROWARD revealed a Florida corporation based inside Broward Mayor Dale Holness’ real estate office received a loan up to $350,000 via the Federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) intended to help companies affected by the COVID-19 lockdown pay employees. Numerous records and published reports show Holness Consulting Inc. received a PPP loan between $150,000 and $350,000 on June 27, 2020. According to State records, Holness Consulting Inc. is located at 4325 W. Sunrise Blvd in Plantation. Damara Holness, daughter of Dale Holness, is listed as its president.
Two businesses owned by Broward Mayor Dale Holness, All Broward Realty and American Holding Group, are located at 4325 W. Sunrise Blvd in Plantation.
State corporation records show Damara Holness formed Holness Consulting Inc in November 2018. Ms. Holness, president of the Broward Black Democratic Party Caucus, is active in local and State political campaigns. In December 2018, Holness Consulting Inc received a $350 payment from Coral Springs Commissioner Joshua Simmons. In June 2019, Coral Commission candidate Khurrum Wahid paid $4,500 to Holness Consulting Inc.
It appears Holness Consulting Inc failed to file its 2019 annual report in 2019. Holness Consulting Inc. filed for reinstatement on June 22, 2020. Five days later, Holness Consulting Inc received its PPP loan.
According to available records, Holness Consulting Inc. claims to have eighteen employees. It is rare for any local political consultant to employ anyone other than themselves.
When REDBROWARD reached her by telephone, Damara Holness said, “I’m in a meeting right now” and hung up.
Dale Holness and Damara Holness have worked closely on political campaigns in the past. In 2018, the Holness offices housed the Andrew Gillum for Governor campaign offices. Earlier this year, Damara Holness hosted a party registration event at Dale Holness’ office in Plantation.
Did Broward Mayor Dale Holness encourage his daughter and his campaign guru to seek a PPP loans?
Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness threw his daughter under the proverbial bus following her arrest for felony conspiracy on Wednesday. The United States of America Department Of Justice claims Damara Holness conspired to fraudulently obtain a $300,000 COVID-19 relief loan and then attempted to hide her fraud with the help of co-conspirators. REDBROWARD first exposed Damara Holness’ PPP loan scheme in August 2020.
Damara Holness’ arrest comes at the worst time for Dale Holness. He is currently running for the US Congressional seat previously held by the late Alcee Hastings.
When the news of her arrest finally broke, Dale Holness made laughable claims about his relationship with Damara Holness to the Miami Herald. In a text message to a Miami Herald reporter, Holness said he and Damara “have been estranged for years.”
While it appears her social media was recently scrubbed, Damara Holness posted photographs of her father attending a Broward Black Democratic Caucus event in June 2020. That’s one year ago.
Other witnesses recall seeing the Holness father and daughter at political events over the last year.
Perhaps realizing his “estranged for years” excuse would not hold up to scrutiny, the Holness campaign posted a. new statement on social media:
“I have no details as to how she conducted her business or what she did with her business entities. Damara has had no access to my real estate business, office, or had my permission to use my address or to conduct business on behalf of the Holness family name nor myself. She has had no access to my office.”
As REDBROWARD reported last year, Damara Holness used Dale Holness’ real estate office as the address Holness Consulting Inc. She formed the company in November 2018.
In December 2013, Damara Holness received her State of Florida real estate license. The address used on her real estate license is the same as Dale Holness’ office. The license is valid through September 2021.
Is this the definition of “estranged?”
In April, this reporter spotted Damara Holness at Dale Holness‘ campaign kickoff at his Plantation real estate office. Damara Holness arrived late. She tried to avoid cameras as she slipped into Dale Holness’ office.
Earlier this year, a source close to the Holness family told REDBROWARD that Damara Holness was banned from the office AFTER REDBROWARD revealed the questionable PPP loan. The source claims Holness allies feared law enforcement would use the matter to conduct surveillance of the office.