Miami, FL - Two South Florida residents received prison sentences this month for exploiting pandemic relief programs meant to aid struggling businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
The cases highlight the ongoing efforts by authorities to crack down on fraudulent misuse of these important programs.
Maritza Morales Hermoso, 58, of Miami, was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison on February 5th for money laundering nearly $2 million obtained through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs.
Prosecutors revealed that Hermoso submitted false loan applications for several companies she controlled, utilizing fabricated documents and inflated employee numbers to deceive the system.
Despite these companies having no active payroll or business activity, Hermoso secured close to $2 million in relief funds.
This ill-gotten wealth funded a lavish lifestyle for Hermoso, including gambling sprees at South Florida casinos, cosmetic surgery, a luxury car purchase, and even a Pomeranian puppy.
To further conceal her scheme, Hermoso allegedly laundered the stolen funds through various business accounts before withdrawing the money in cash.
She faces additional charges for these efforts to disguise her criminal activity.
On February 8th, Gregory Scott Keough, 57, of Wellington, received a 30-month prison sentence for money laundering and wire fraud related to his misuse of over $2 million in pandemic relief funds.
Prosecutors accused Keough of collaborating with an attorney to submit fraudulent loan applications for multiple businesses under his control.
Similar to Hermoso's scheme, these applications relied on fabricated documents and inflated employee numbers.
Authorities revealed that Keough used the fraudulently obtained funds for personal expenses, including credit card payments, home improvement projects, luxury travel, and private school tuition.
In addition to serving prison time, Keough is also ordered to pay nearly $2 million in restitution for the stolen funds.
These two cases represent just a fraction of the over 200 South Floridians charged with defrauding pandemic relief programs, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in bogus applications.
The recent indictment of a Broward Sheriff's Office lieutenant accused of similar fraud further underscores the scope of this issue and the ongoing efforts by prosecutors to hold individuals accountable for such abuse.