Arashio Harris, 48, who was a Corrections Sergeant with the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department (“MDCRD”), has pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with his fraudulent applications for two Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, two Economic Injury Disaster Loans (“EIDL”), and an EIDL advance. Harris entered his guilty plea in Miami, Florida, yesterday before Chief U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga.
According to the facts admitted at the change of plea, Harris, along with being a MDCRD Sergeant, also was the owner and President of The Good Family Property Solutions Inc. (“Good Family”) and Flying Lions LLC (“Flying Lions”). Working with an associate, on April 3, 2020, Harris submitted and caused to be submitted to the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) a false and fraudulent EIDL application in the name of Good Family, seeking both an EIDL and an EIDL advance. In this fraudulent application, Harris falsely claimed that for the 12-month period prior to January 31, 2020, Good Family had gross revenues of approximately $130,000 and nine employees. As a result of this fraudulent application, Good Family obtained from the SBA a $9,000 EIDL advance that did not need to be repaid and $14,500 in EIDL loan proceeds. Harris also admitted that on June 30, 2020, he submitted and caused to be submitted a false and fraudulent EIDL application to the SBA for Flying Lions, claiming that Flying Lions had gross revenues of over $480,000 and 10 employees during that same period of time. As a result of this fraudulent application, Flying Lions obtained approximately $150,000 in EIDL proceeds from the SBA.
Harris additionally admitted at the change of plea that with the assistance of the same individual, he fraudulently obtained two PPP loans in the name of Good Family. First, on July 9, 2020, Harris submitted and caused to be submitted a false and fraudulent PPP loan application falsely claiming that Good Family had 10 employees and a payroll of approximately $51,710 per month. In support of this application, Harris submitted a fraudulent 2019 IRS Form 1120 falsely claiming that Good Family had a total income of over $1,050,000 and had paid wages and salaries that year of over $768,000 and a fraudulent IRS Form 944 for 2019 showing over $620,500 in wage and salary payments. The application also included false IRS Form W-2’s and Good Family payroll records for these supposed employees, and as a result of this false and fraudulent application, Harris obtained a $129,275 PPP loan from an SBA-approved PPP lender.
On February 26, 2021, Harris began the process of seeking a second-draw PPP loan for Good Family to fraudulently take advantage of the additional PPP relief being offered to businesses that suffered revenue losses in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The second-draw application once again relied on the false income and payroll numbers used to obtain the first PPP loan, and the application package included the same fraudulent 2019 IRS Form 1120, as well as a fraudulent 2019 IRS Form 940 claiming that Good Family paid its employees over $620,000 in 2019 and fabricated Good Family payroll records for those supposed employees. As a result of this second-draw application, Good Family obtained a second-draw PPP loan of $129,276 from a different SBA-approved PPP lender.
Harris is scheduled for sentencing on October 27, at 12:30 p.m. before Chief U.S. District Judge Altonaga in Miami, Fla., where he faces a 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 (IRS-CI), Miami Field Office, Inspector General Felix Jimenez of the Miami-Dade County Office of Inspector General (MDC-OIG), 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 task force officers from the MDC-OIG, working in conjunction with IRS-CI Miami and SBA-OIG Investigations Division’s Eastern Region, investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward N. Stamm is prosecuting the case.
In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act was enacted. It was designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other sources of relief, the CARES Act authorized and provided funding to the SBA to provide Economic Injury Disaster Loans (“EIDLs”) to eligible small businesses, including sole proprietorships and independent contractors, experiencing substantial financial disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic to allow them to meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could otherwise have been met had the disaster not occurred. EIDL applications were submitted directly to the SBA via the SBA’s on-line application website, and the applications were processed and the loans funded for qualifying applicants directly by the SBA.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
On September 15, 2022, the Attorney General selected the Southern District of Florida’s U.S. Attorney’s Office to head one of three national COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force Teams. The Department of Justice established the Strike Force to enhance existing efforts to combat and prevent COVID-19 related financial fraud. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please click here.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.