FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The daughter of a South Florida commissioner who is running for Congress is facing federal charges for receiving a $300,000 loan from the Paycheck Protection Program to pay employees who did not exist at a consulting firm.
Damara Holness, 28, was charged Tuesday with one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud and was released on bond following a first appearance hearing Wednesday. She is the daughter of Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness.
According to an indictment, Damara Holness lied on her coronavirus relief loan application, and sent fraudulent payroll tax forms to cover 18 employees at Holness Consulting Inc. in Plantation to justify the money. The state had no record of the employees.
The loan was approved in July 2020 and, the indictment said, she spent time creating a paper trail to make it look as if the company was spending the loan money on legitimate expenses.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Holness then began issuing checks to people who agreed to help — for a fee — with the fraud. They were directed to endorse the checks and return the money to her, according to the indictments. Officials said she kept $1,000 of the remaining amount for herself from each check.
Dale Holness told the South Florida SunSentinel on Wednesday that he and his daughter have been estranged for many years.