In a disheartening case of fraud, a former Miami-Dade police officer named Samuel Harris has pleaded guilty to multiple charges related to COVID-19 relief fraud. Harris was found guilty of wire fraud for submitting fraudulent applications for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), and an EIDL advance. Acting as the owner and president of Oregen Digital, Inc., Harris falsely claimed to have 10 employees and a monthly payroll exceeding $50,000. As a result, he obtained a PPP loan of $125,579 and an EIDL advance of $10,000. Harris is scheduled for sentencing on September 25, 2023, where he faces a possible maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
Former Miami-Dade Police Officer Pleads Guilty to COVID-19 Relief Fraud
Overview of the Case
In a significant development, a former Miami-Dade Police Officer named Samuel Harris has pleaded guilty to wire fraud in relation to his fraudulent applications for COVID-19 relief funds. Harris admitted to submitting false and fraudulent applications for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), and an EIDL advance. This case highlights the prevalence of fraud in government assistance programs during the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of vigilant oversight and investigation to protect taxpayer dollars.
Background Information on Samuel Harris
Samuel Harris, aged 43, was a police officer with the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) at the time of the fraudulent activities. Additionally, he was the owner and president of Oregen Digital, Inc. (Oregen), an organization that Harris exploited to carry out his fraudulent schemes. Harris used his knowledge and position within law enforcement to further his criminal efforts, demonstrating a breach of trust and a flagrant disregard for the law.
Details of Harris’ Guilty Plea
Harris entered his guilty plea in Miami before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. The facts admitted during the plea hearing shed light on the extent of Harris’ fraudulent activities. On June 29, 2020, Harris, in collaboration with an associate, submitted a false and fraudulent PPP loan application for Oregen, falsely claiming that the company had ten employees and a monthly payroll exceeding $50,000. To support this application, Harris submitted a fraudulent IRS Form W-3, falsely stating that Oregen had paid its employees over $602,000 in wages in 2019. As a result of this fraudulent application, Harris obtained a $125,579 PPP loan from an SBA-approved lender based in Georgia.
Harris also admitted to submitting a false and fraudulent EIDL application on June 30, 2020, in the name of Oregen. In this application, Harris claimed that Oregen had gross revenues of over $859,000 and ten employees in the twelve-month period leading up to January 31, 2020. As a result of this fraudulent application, Oregen received a $10,000 EIDL advance and $149,900 in EIDL loan proceeds from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Overview of the Fraudulent Applications
The fraudulent applications submitted by Harris provide insights into the methods used by individuals seeking to exploit COVID-19 relief programs. In this case, Harris utilized both the PPP loan program and the EIDL program to unlawfully obtain funds for his own benefit.
PPP Loan Application
Harris’ fraudulent PPP loan application for Oregen involved inflating the company’s number of employees and monthly payroll. By falsely claiming to have ten employees and a monthly payroll exceeding $50,000, Harris was able to secure a substantial loan of $125,579. This fraudulent activity not only resulted in financial gain for Harris but also deprived legitimate businesses in need of the relief funds.
Alongside the PPP loan application, Harris also submitted a false and fraudulent EIDL application for Oregen. In this application, Harris falsely claimed that Oregen had gross revenues of over $859,000 and ten employees in the twelve-month period prior to January 31, 2020. As a result, Oregen received a $10,000 EIDL advance, which did not need to be repaid, and $149,900 in EIDL loan proceeds. Harris’ manipulation of the EIDL program further demonstrates his intent to exploit government assistance programs for personal gain.
Potential Sentencing for Harris
Harris is scheduled for sentencing on September 25, where he faces a possible maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. The severity of the potential sentence reflects the gravity of Harris’ offenses and serves as a deterrent against future fraudulent activities. The sentencing will be conducted by U.S. District Judge Scola in Miami.
Law Enforcement Agencies Involved in the Investigation
Multiple law enforcement agencies played a crucial role in uncovering and investigating Harris’ fraudulent activities. The FBI’s Miami Area Corruption Task Force, comprised of officers from the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Professional Compliance Bureau, IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and SBA Office of Inspector General (SBA OIG), worked collaboratively to expose Harris’ crimes. This joint effort highlights the importance of interagency cooperation in tackling complex cases of fraud.
For more information on reporting attempted fraud involving COVID-19 relief programs or to provide any relevant information, individuals can contact the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or visit the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form. By reporting any wrongdoing, individuals can contribute to the ongoing efforts to prevent and prosecute fraudulent activities.
In conclusion, the guilty plea of Samuel Harris, a former Miami-Dade Police Officer, highlights the pervasive issue of fraud in COVID-19 relief programs. Through his fraudulent applications for a PPP loan, EIDL, and EIDL advance, Harris exploited government assistance programs for personal gain. This case underscores the importance of robust safeguards, rigorous investigation, and the strong collaboration between law enforcement agencies in bringing to justice those who seek to defraud public funds. The forthcoming sentencing of Harris will serve as a reminder of the consequences faced by individuals involved in such illegal activities and will hopefully deter others from engaging in similar acts of fraud.