Florida Man Charged For $24 Million COVID-19 Relief Fraud

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Neil Shah Contributor
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Two men, a Florida recording artist, and a Pennsylvania towing company owner, have been charged federally for fraudulently attempting to obtain $24 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) COVID-19 relief funds, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday.

The criminal complaints allege that these two men, Diamond Blue Smith and Tonye Johnson, “[participated] in a scheme to file fraudulent loan applications,” and charges them with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit these acts, according to the Department of Justice press release.

Smith and Johnson co-conspired with 11 other individuals in a scheme by preparing “at least 90 fraudulent applications… with at least 42 of those loans approved and funded” to the tune of $17.4 million, according to the criminal complaint for Johnson.

Smith also obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars for his company, LLC and bought a Ferrari, among other luxury purchases, while Johnson used “falsified documents” to obtain PPP funds for his towing company, according to the press release. (RELATED: ‘Katie Hill Is Not A Hero’: Former Staffers Allegedly Take Over Katie Hill’s Twitter To Condemn News Of A Katie Hill TV Show)

Both men were arrested and appeared in federal courts in Georgia and Pennsylvania in early October, and the other 11 alleged co-conspirators in the scheme were charged with separate federal criminal complaints from as early as June, per the press release.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a Small Business Administration (SBA) program through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that provides loans to struggling small businesses to help them pay for rent and utilities, mortgages, and keeping their employees on their payroll during the coronavirus pandemic. The CARES act is a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill that was signed into law in mid-March by President Trump.