MIAMI – Samuel Harris, a former police officer with the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), has pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with fraudulent applications for COVID-19 relief funds. The plea was entered in Miami before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr.
According to the facts presented during the change of plea, Harris, who owned and served as the president of Oregen Digital, Inc., submitted false and fraudulent applications for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), and an EIDL advance. On June 29, 2020, Harris submitted a fraudulent PPP loan application claiming that Oregen had 10 employees with a monthly payroll exceeding $50,000. To support the application, he submitted a fraudulent IRS Form W-3 stating that Oregen had paid over $602,000 in wages to its employees in 2019. As a result, 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, on behalf of Oregen. The application falsely claimed that Oregen had gross revenues of over $859,000 and 10 employees in the twelve-month period before January 31, 2020. Consequently, Oregen received a $10,000 EIDL advance and $149,900 in EIDL loan proceeds from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Harris is scheduled for sentencing on September 25, facing a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey B. Veltri of the FBI Miami Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Matthew D. Line of the IRS Criminal Investigation Miami Field Office, and SBA OIG’s Eastern Region Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite, U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General (SBA OIG), Investigations Division’s Eastern Region, announced the guilty plea.
The FBI’s Miami Area Corruption Task Force, which includes officers from the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Professional Compliance Bureau, IRS-CI, and SBA OIG, conducted the investigation. U.S. Attorney Lapointe expressed gratitude to the Miami-Dade County Office of Inspector General for their assistance. Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward N. Stamm is prosecuting the case.
The COVID-19 relief funds were authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted in March 2020. The relief measures, including the PPP and EIDL, aimed to provide emergency financial assistance to individuals and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
To combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force on May 17, 2021. This task force, in collaboration with various government agencies, investigates and prosecutes domestic and international criminal actors involved in COVID-19-related fraud. The Department of Justice's Southern District of Florida's U.S. Attorney's Office was selected in September 2022 to lead one of three national COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force Teams.
Individuals with information related to COVID-19 fraud can report it to the Department of Justice's National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or through the NCDF Web Complaint Form on their website.
For more information on the Department's response to the pandemic, visit the official Justice Department's website at https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.