Omar Smith, Dale Holness’ campaign guru, appeared before Federal Judge William Matthewman on Thursday morning to plead not guilty to charges related to fraudulently obtained Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan fraud. On Monday, Federal prosecutors charged Smith with felony conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud to obtain a $215,500 COVID-19 relief loan. If convicted, Omar Smith could face thirty years in prison and up to $1,000,000 in fines.
Judge Matthewman stated bond was $100,000 for Smith.
As REDBROWARD first reported on Tuesday, Smith’s charging documents included a waiver of indictment. On Thursday, “The Court explained waiver of indictment to the Defendant, form executed, and the Court found that Defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to indictment.Defendant WAIVED indictment on the record and agrees to proceed by way of Information. The Court found Defendant’s waiver knowing and voluntary. The Defendant waived formal reading, entered a plea of Not Guilty.” The waiver could be a sign Smith intends to cooperate with Federal authorities.
Smith is represented by Nicole Hamil-Scott, a Coral Springs attorney who specializes in family law matters.
Federal prosecutors allege Omar Miguel Smith, Dale Holness’ longtime campaign guru, had help in his conspiracy to fraudulently obtain a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) COVID-19 relief loan, charging documents show. These same documents may signal that Smith is cooperating with Federal authorities in ongoing investigations. On Monday, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida charged Smith with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud. If convicted, Smith faces up to thirty years in Federal prison.
In charging documents filed in U.S. Federal Court, prosecutors allege “co-conspirators” assisted Omar Smith in fraudulently obtaining a $215,500 PPP loan for his Florida company A Star For I, Inc. in June 2020. Prosecutors allege Smith agreed to pay 20% of the PPP loan to a co-conspirator for help obtaining the loan. On June 1, 2020 Omar Smith submitted an online loan application prepared by his co-conspirator.
According to the U.S. Attorney, “the loan application falsely stated that A Star For I had 30 employees and had an average monthly payroll of $85,000 a month.” To support these bogus claims, Smith submitted false IRS documents prepared by his co-conspirator that “falsely stated that in the first quarter of 2019 A Star For I paid wages of $255,000 and had withheld from those wages federal income tax of $24,040, social security tax of $31,620, and Medicare tax of $7,395.”
The PPP loan was approved one day later and $215,500 was transferred to the A Star For I bank account. Prosecutors state Smith transferred $42,500 to his co-conspirator on June 10, 2020 as payment for obtaining the PPP loan.
Between June 2020 and October 2020, Federal prosecutors allege Omar Smith “began issuing checks to persons in order to make it appear as if A Star For I had full-time employees and was complying with the conditions of the PPP loan.” Prosecutors claim “the persons receiving the checks did little, if any, work for A Star For I.”
Prosecutors have not named Smith’s co-conspirators.
REDBROWARD was first to report on Omar Smith’s suspect PPP loan in August 2020.
During the same time period, REDBROWARD exposed a similar suspect PPP loan obtained by Damara Holness, daughter of former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness.
Like Smith, Damara Holness used false documents to claim her Florida company employed workers with a hefty payroll when in reality, Holness Consulting Inc. had no employees. Using false payroll records, Damara Holness fraudulently obtained a $300,000 PPP loan.
Also like Omar Smith, Damara Holness wrote checks to associates who cashed the checks and returned the majority of the money to Holness. Prosecutors alleged Holness used dozens of people in this scheme. Last month, Damara Holness started a 20 month prison sentence in Mariana, Florida.
WAIVER OF INDICTMENT
Included in the charging documents filed Monday is a “waiver of indictment” which reads:
“I understand that I have been accused of one or more offenses punishable by imprisonment for more than one year. I was advised in open court of my rights and the nature of the proposed charges against me.
After receiving this advice, I waive my right to prosecution by indictment and consent to prosecution by information.“
In cases where punishment may be longer than one year, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure require a defendant be indicted by a grand jury. According to Federal criminal defense lawyers, Prosecutors may ask a defendant to waive the indictment requirement as part of a plea agreement which includes defendant’s cooperation in building cases against co-conspirators or other potential defendants.
It is unclear if Omar Smith is co-operating with Federal authorities. Damara Holness signed a similar waiver but a year later, prosecutors told a Federal Judge that Holness never co-operated and never revealed the whereabouts of $181,000 in cash.
Unlike Damara Holness, Omar Smith may have information that goes beyond PPP loan fraud.
As REDBROWARD documented for nearly ten years, Omar Smith played a major role in Dale Holness campaign operations. Smith helped form numerous controversial political action committees which aided Holness and his political allies. Smith used committees and other electoral processes to collect votes for Dale Holness and other favored candidates. Holness and Smith played key roles in the 2020 election which saw victories by Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony, Broward Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott, and others.
Additionally, sources tell REDBROWARD that Smith’s A Star For I company received large unapproved payments by a South Florida municipality for work he may not have performed. One source claims a city employee, who is Smith’s close, personal friend, arranged the payment.
Damara Holness, daughter of Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, plead guilty to a Federal charge of lying on a COVID-19 relief loan application and fraudulently obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars intended to help small businesses during the pandemic. As part of her plea deal announced on Wednesday, Damara Holness admitted she obtained a June 2020 PPP loan for $300,000 for her company, Holness Consulting Inc. Holness admitted using phony payroll forms which stated she employed 18 people.
REDBROWARD first exposed Damara Holness’ PPP loan issues in July 2020.
After obtaining the money, Damara Holness admitted to creating a false paper trail to hide her scheme. This included writing checks to “employees” who would endorse them over to Damara Holness.
Damara Holness faces up to twenty years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 dollars.