The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida announced the arrest of a Fort Lauderdale high school basketball coach accused of defrauding a COVID-19 relief program out of almost $1 million.
Terrence Deshun Williams, 40, of Tamarac, FL, was charged with money laundering, bank fraud, engaging in transactions in unlawful proceeds, and making false statements to a financial institution. He was released on $350,000 bond, sources indicate. It is unclear if he has acquired the services of an attorney.
The accused is the head coach of the boys’ varsity basketball team at Stranahan High School in Fort Lauderdale. According to the criminal complaint, he applied for a $984,710 loan from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) on behalf of his company, Williams Consulting Group, LLC. He allegedly claimed the company employed 67 people and had an average monthly payroll of almost $400,000, when in reality, the company did not pay that much payroll or have that many employees.
The PPP is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Safety (CARES) Act that was enacted by Congress on March 29, 2020. The loan program, which is run by the Small Business Administration (SBA), is designed to provide emergency financial assistance to American businesses that were negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Congress authorized over $340 billion in forgivable loans for small businesses to use for retaining employees, paying payroll expenses, covering rent and utilities, and making mortgage payments.
The high-school coach’s PPP loan was approved and funded. However, instead of using the money for its approved purpose, he purportedly attempted to launder the vast majority of the money by transferring it to several accounts he controlled at different banks.
Dozens of companies in South Florida and other regions have been accused of fraudulently applying for PPP loans. According to a report from the Office of SBA Inspector General Michael Ware, the agency may have approved billions of dollars in loans to businesses that fraudulently claimed to have been impacted by the COVID-19 lockdowns. The agency was reportedly so inundated with loan applications that it couldn’t properly vet the applicants. Loan officers were given just 15 minutes to process each application, which “resulted in cursory reviews rather than the deeper reviews required to ensure loans were given to eligible businesses,” the report noted.
The fact that some amount of fraud occurred is not surprising considering the significant sum that has been disbursed by the agency since March 2020. Fraud charges involving COVID-19 relief programs will likely continue to rise as the SBA increases its scrutiny of how loan proceeds are spent by borrowers.
If you are a South Florida business owner who is concerned about compliance with the terms of your loan, then you should immediately seek legal counsel. An experienced fraud attorney can assess the situation and help you avoid criminal charges.
South Florida Fraud Defense Attorney
Are you accused of committing fraud involving COVID-19 relief programs in South Florida? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation with one of South Florida’s most experienced fraud defense attorneys.