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Broward Commissioner Dale Holness' Daughter Accused Of COVID Relief Funds Fraud

BROWARD (CBSMiami) – Broward Commissioner Dale Holness' 28-year-old daughter is being accused of COVID relief funds fraud.

Federal prosecutors said Damara Holness lied on Paycheck Protection Program applications, illegally obtaining $300,000 in forgivable loans meant for small businesses to survive the pandemic.

According to prosecutors, she "claimed in the online loan application, and through supporting fraudulent payroll tax forms, that her company employed 18 people and spent an average of $120,000 each month on payroll."

But through their investigation, prosecutors said they learned Holness Consulting, the company Damara Holness requested the loans for, had zero employees and no payroll expenses.

Prosecutors said a Georgia bank approved Holness Consulting's PPP loan application, wiring the money to a Florida bank account.

Damara Holness is then accused of spending the "the next few months creating a paper trail to make it appear as if Holness Consulting had employees and was spending the PPP money on legitimate, approved expenses."

According to the United States Attorney's Office Southern District of Florida's release, "Holness issued checks from the company bank account made out to others who agreed, for a fee, to help with the fraud."

The prosecutors claim "the people receiving the checks would endorse and return them to Holness."

Damara Holness allegedly pocketed the cash after doling some back to the endorsers in the scheme.

She is being charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud.  If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

She made her initial court appearance Wednesday before being released on a $100,000 personal surety bond.

CBS4 reached out to her father, Dale Holness, who is running for U.S. Congress.

In a statement, he said, "Sadly, my daughter Damara Holness and I have been estranged for many years. I have always offered guidance and counsel to my daughter to do what is right. I have no details as to how she conducted her business or what she did with her business entities."

He closed his statement by saying, "She has made it clear to me on multiple occasions that she is an adult and as such, has conducted her own affairs. If she has done wrong, I hope she learns from this and uses this as a lesson to better conduct her life in the future."

South Florida attorney David Weinstein says others in the community should use this situation as a warning.

"It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter who you are related to. It doesn't matter what you are doing. The federal government is going to come after you if they find out that you have fraudulently apply for these type of loans," he said.

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