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South Florida Rapper and Pennsylvania Man Charged for Role in $24 Million COVID-Relief Fraud Scheme

precondo-ca-GuXhiz45lq8-unsplash-300x166In one of the country’s largest coronavirus (COVID-19) relief fraud schemes, a South Florida rapper and a Pennsylvania tow truck operator have been accused of pocketing millions of dollars from a federal loan program meant for businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Diamond Blue Smith, 36, of Miramar, FL, and Tonye C. Johnson, 28, of Flourtown, PA, were charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. Attorney information was not available at the time of writing.

According to the criminal complaint, Smith and Johnson allegedly conspired with 11 other defendants to fraudulently obtain millions of dollars in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Prosecutors allege that Smith applied for $426,717 in PPP loans for his company, Throwbackjersey.com, using falsified documents. He also purportedly sought another loan of $708,065 for another company, Blue Star Records, LLC.

PPP loans were approved by Congress in March 2020 as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The forgivable loans, which are backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA), are meant to be distributed to qualifying businesses that have been adversely impacted by the loss of business and costs associated with COVID-19. The money is meant to be used to keep workers on payroll and pay for rent, utilities, and interest on mortgages amid the coronavirus pandemic. Congress authorized over $650 billion in loans through the enactment of the CARES Act.

Both of Smith’s loans were approved and funded. He purportedly used the money for expenses that aren’t covered under the PPP’s terms, such as the purchase of a Ferrari valued at $96,000 and other luxury items. He also withdrew over $270,000 in loan proceeds, the complaint claims.

Johnson allegedly sought a PPP loan of $389,627 for his company, Synergy Towing & Transport, using falsified documents. His loan was also approved and funded. The complaint alleges that he used a portion of the loan to pay his co-conspirators in the alleged scheme.

The complaint claims that Smith and Johnson were part of a broader scheme involving 11 other defendants that sought more than $24 million in PPP loans. Many of those loans were approved and funded, paying out at least $17.4 million, according to the complaint. The 11 other defendants were identified as:

  • Joshua J. Bellamy, 31, of St. Petersburg, was charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.
  • Tiara Walker, 37, of Miami Gardens, was charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.
  • Damion O. Mckenzie, 38, of Miami Gardens, was charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.
  • Andre M. Clark, 46, of Miramar, was charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.
  • Keyaira Bostic, 31, of Pembroke Pines, was charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.
  • Philip J. Augustin, 51, of Coral Springs, was charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and obstruction.
  • Wyleia Nashon Williams, 44, of Fort Lauderdale, was charge with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.
  • James R. Stote, 54, of Hollywood, Florida, was charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.
  • Ross Charno, 46, of Fort Lauderdale, was charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.
  • Deon D. Levy, 50, of Bedford, Ohio, was charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
  • Abdul-Azeem Levy, 22, of Cleveland, Ohio, was charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Cases of fraud involving federal COVID-19 relief programs have been on the rise in recent months. Due to the severity of the penalties of a conviction, anyone under investigation for fraud in relation to these programs should immediately seek legal counsel. A good attorney can review the allegations, craft a winning defense strategy, and protect your rights in court.

South Florida Fraud Defense Attorney

Are you accused of committing fraud in South Florida involving COVID-19 relief programs? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation with one of South Florida’s most experienced fraud defense attorneys.

Source: 10.6.20 Florida recording artist, Pennsylvania man charged in million dollar COVID-relief fraud scheme.pdf

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