PLANTATION, FLA. (WSVN) - The daughter of the former mayor of Broward County has been arrested for allegedly defrauding hundreds of thousands of dollars from a federal COVID-19 relief program.

Damara Holness stands accused of lying to acquire $300,000 in forgivable PPP loan money from the federal government. Her father, Dale Holness, presided over the county during the first year of the pandemic.

According to officials, Holness, who calls herself a political consultant, “falsely stated that Holness Consulting had 18 employees and had an average monthly payroll of $120,000” on her June 2020 loan application.

The application also stated “Holness Consulting paid wages of $1,440,000” in 2019. However, according to the state, the business was dissolved in 2020 but reinstated on June 22, 2020, a few days before the loan application was submitted.

On the loan application, investigators said Holness used her father’s campaign headquarters as her business address.

Federal investigators said from July to September 2020, “Defendant Holness began issuing checks to persons in order to make it appear as if Holness Consulting had full-time employees and was complying with the conditions of the PPP loan. At the direction of the defendant Holness, the persons receiving the checks endorsed the checks and returned the checks to defendant Holness.”

Officials then allege Holness would give the person around $200 and would cash the checks herself.

The former mayor, who is running for a seat in Congress, said he is estranged from his daughter. He also released a statement that reads, in part:

“Damara has had no access to my real estate business, office, or had my permission to use my address or to conduct business on behalf of the Holness family name nor myself. She has had no access to my office since 2018.”

“She has made it clear to me on multiple occasions that she is an adult and as such, has conducted her own affairs. If she has done wrong, I hope she learns from this and uses this as a lesson to better conduct her life in the future.”

7News visited Holness’ campaign headquarters in Plantation to seek comment, but the representatives at his office declined to be interviewed.

7News also knocked on Damara Holness’ home address in Lauderdale Lakes that was listed on her forms, but there was no comment from that location, as well.

Holness maintains her innocence and released a statement through her attorney on Thursday reading:

“Despite a full investigation by the feds confirming no involvement by her father or his campaign; there has been an unexplained rush to complete and publicize this indictment. It is unfortunate that the timing of these allegations against my client has seemingly been synced to allow it to be folded into her father’s campaign for federal office.”

Holness has been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. If convicted, she faces 20 years in prison, and she could have to pay a $250,000 fine.

The $300,000 PPP loan she was approved for has not been forgiven.

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