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.
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.”
Miramar Commission Alexandra Davis (D-Holness) is running to replace Barbara Sharief on the Broward County Commission with the support of Miami Dade political operatives. Davis filed her campaign paperwork for the District 8 seat last month. Sharief is running for U.S. Congress against fellow Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness. Davis endorsed Holness’ bid in April.
Like Dale Holness, Alexandra Davis has the financial support from operatives related to controversial Miami Dade Commissioner Keon Hardemon. In her first campaign treasurer’s report, Davis lists a $1,000 contribution from B&B Professional Consultants Inc. Davis reports another $1,000 contribution from B&B Professional Consultants Inc. owner Barbara Hardemon.
In January, REDBROWARD reported on an apparent alliance between two of south Florida’s most controversial County Commissioners in order to influence the 2020 Election.
PEOPLE OF PRINCIPLE PAC
In October 2019, In October, B&B Professional Consulting Inc., a company owned by relatives of Miami-Dade Commissioner Keon Hardemon, made a large contribution to the Margate-based “People of Principle PAC.” Last September, REDBROWARD revealed Broward Mayor Dale Holness’ campaign team appeared to be behind the mysterious federal political committee backing mostly black candidates.
People of Principle PAC urged voters to use “your voice” by supporting Dale Holness, Congressman Alcee Hastings and other black candidates. Even though mail pieces for the political committee stated “#BlackVotesMatter” and “#BlackExcellence,” the piece endorsed several white candidates such as Judge Frank Ledee, Judge Patti Englander Henning and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
Records show Holness’ longtime campaign marketing guru Omar Smith is tied to the “People Over Principle PAC.”
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.
HARDEMON FAMILY FUNDS BROWARD PAC
On October 3, 2020, B and B Professional Consultants, Inc. made a $2,500 contribution to the federal “People of Principle PAC.” State business records show B and B Professional Consultants, Inc. is owned by Keon Hardemon’s aunt, Barbara Hardemon.
According to published reports, Barbara Hardemon and her husband Billy Hardemon are closely tied to projects coming before the Miami City Commission where Keon Hardemon served before winning a seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission.
In March 2019, the Miami Herald featured Barbara Hardemon in “How Miami commissioner’s aunt became a high-priced lobbyist.“
After failing the previous year to convince the city to hold a voter referendum on the project at Jungle Island, real estate investment firm ESJ Capital Partners hired Barbara Hardemon to hurriedly set up meetings during the first week in June with Commissioner Keon Hardemon’s staff. Over a 48-hour stretch, they say she assisted in negotiating a deal that will steer millions into housing and economic development funds during the life of the park’s extended lease on Watson Island and helped nail down her nephew’s support for a voter referendum.
One month later, Barbara Hardemon was hired again, this time by David Beckham’s Major League Soccer franchise as it neared a make-or-break vote on a $1 billion stadium and retail proposal. She registered three days before a scheduled vote and arranged a lunch at a waterfront restaurant between her nephew and the Mas brothers, the Miami businessmen who are part owners of the MLS franchise. Days later, Commissioner Hardemon voted in a close decision to put the proposal on the November ballot.
In August 2020, the Florida Bulldog exposed how one activist claimed Keon Hardemon funded a non-profit operated by Barbara and Billy Hardemon.
The same day, [Grady] Muhammad filed a letter with the city clerk addressed to Mayor Francis Suarez…attacking Hardemon for sponsoring and voting for resolutions that awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in city and federal grants to the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corp. and the Foundation Of Community Assistance and Leadership, aka FOCAL, since he was first elected in 2013. Billy Hardemon is the economic development corporation’s volunteer chairman and his wife, Barbara, is FOCAL’s $25,094-a-year executive director. Their two daughters are also employed by the foundation, earning annual salaries of $70,494 and $50,989, respectively.
“Over the last seven years, Keon Hardemon has given…over seven million dollars via waving of competitive bids to both not-for-profit organizations headed by his uncle Billy and his auntie Barbara Hardemon,” Muhammad wrote.
According to the Bulldog, the actual amount given to the Hardemon’s non-profit was closer to $12 million dollars.
In response to the story, Keon Hardemon told the Bulldog, “Such an accusation just before election day is clearly an attempt by him and my opponents who know him well to organize and send an unpaid, illegal, and negative political advertisement with your assistance.”
“Billy Hardemon echoed his nephew’s comments. ‘Grady is obviously trying to slime Keon,’ Billy said. ‘I consider him a hater.’”
In 1996, the Miami-Dade government was rocked by the FBI investigation dubbed “Operation Green Palm.”
The Los Angeles Times reported, “Bahamian offshore bank accounts, shadowy meetings with informants on borrowed pleasure yachts, multimillion-dollar extortions, slush funds–this one might have it all. The once powerful are being brought low, including a lion of the Cuban-exile community, Cesar Odio, now facing charges that he allegedly shook down city vendors so he could buy a new Rolex.”
Elected officials were charged after Howard Gary recorded conversations documenting shakedown of companies seeking to do business in Miami. One of the officials charged was Miami-Dade County Commissioner James Burke.
In addition to Burke, a Federal grand jury indicted Burke’s aide, Billy Hardemon. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Hardemon claimed the charges were racist.
“The charges contained in this indictment are damnable lies,” Hardemon said. “This case is not Operation Greenpalm. Operation Greenpalm has turned into operation high-tech lynching.”
Hardemon, Burke and a third individual were “charged with 12 counts of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and wire fraud. The government alleges they were involved in a bond kickback scheme involving the $180 million refinancing of a garbage recycling plant and a proposed $210 million bond issue to build a new Miami Heat arena.”
While Burke was convicted of the charges, Billy Hardemon was acquitted in 1999.
One year, Billy Hardemon entered into a plea agreement with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office over charges stemming from misuse of campaign funds:
Don Ungurait, spokesman for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, said Hardemon accepted guilt but was not technically convicted.
That means Hardemon can say he has never been convicted, even though he will serve a year of probation.
Ungurait said Hardemon was accused of taking campaign contributions over the $500 limit and of having inaccurate campaign finance reports, then testifying that they were accurate.
Hardemon had also been charged with felony counts that accused him of using his campaign money to pay people who were not doing anything for the campaign, but those charges were dropped when a witness died and another recanted.
Even though Keon Hardemon serves in Miami-Dade, the Hardemon family has been involved in Broward politics for several years.
MIAMI ETHICS PROBE PUT SPOTLIGHT ON MIRAMAR GOVERNMENT & ALEXANDRA DAVIS
An August 2013 investigation by the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission exposed the role Billy and Barbara Hardemon played in City of Miramar politics. The 2013 complaint alleged Billy Hardemon, then an employee with the Miami-Dade County Department of Public Works and Waste Management (PWWM), spent “substantial amounts of county time, taken without authorized leave, in the City of Miramar, in Broward County…during hours when Hardemon was understood to be working at his Miami-Dade County job.”
What was Billy Hardemon doing in Miramar? According to the complaint, Hardemon attended numerous City of Miramar government meetings as the “de facto chief of staff” for Miramar City Commissioner Yvette Colburne. (Other employees claimed Hardemon served a similar role with Miramar City Commissioner Alexandra Davis).
In an interview with investigators, Colburne admitted Billy Hardemon was her “advisor.” She said his role was to advise her and “attend meetings for and with her.” While he assisted with her campaign, Colburne stated Hardemon was not paid or compensated in anyway.
However, investigators determined Colburne’s campaign paid $2,000 to B and B Professional Consultants, Inc., a company owned by Barbara Hardemon.
Colburne told investigators that Billy Hardemon and Barbara Hardemon were members of “Team Colburne.” As to his employment in Miami-Dade County, Colburne told investigators, “I felt that was being handled with his superiors.”
The whistleblower claimed Hardemon’s superior, PWWM director Kathleen Woods-Richardson, was fully aware of his violations.
When asked if she was aware of Hardemon working for Yvette Colburne in Miramar, Woods-Richardson told investigators, “absolutely not!”
Investigators were shocked by Woods-Richardson’s denial. In addition to calling Hardemon a “friend,” Woods-Richardson’s assistant was Yvette Colburne.
Additionally, the interview with Kathleen Woods-Richardson was held at the Miramar government center. After Colburne was elected to office, Woods-Richardson was named Miramar City Manager.
While the investigator was not persuaded by the testimony of Colburne and Woods-Richardson, he could find no evidence that Woods-Richardson “directed” Hardemon to work for Colburne in order to increase her chances of becoming city manager.
Both Yvette Colburne and Alexandra Davis are allies of Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness.
Miami. Miramar. And now, elections all over Broward. Will Hardemon’s influence extend further across Broward if Alexandra Davis snares a seat on the County Commission?
Do Broward residents really want Miami-Dade lobbyists and officials influencing their governments?