In yet another case alleging federal loan fraud by a South Florida policeman, prosecutors claim a onetime Miami-Dade officer milked money from pandemic relief funds by submitting falsified documents about his company.
Federal prosecutors say that while on staff with the Miami-Dade Police Department, Samuel Harris Jr. obtained more than $275,000 through fraudulent loan applications submitted to two federal programs tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harris is at least the third current or former South Florida police officer to face a pandemic-loan fraud charge since June 2022. Prosecutors filed the case against him less than two months after charging a City of Miami officer with a similar scheme.
Submitted through an Atlanta-based lender, Harris's application to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) falsely stated that his company Oregen Digital had ten employees and $50,000 in monthly payroll obligations, prosecutors say. He backed up the application with an allegedly bogus payroll tax form, which helped him secure $125,000 in PPP funds.
Prosecutors allege that Harris secured nearly $150,000 in additional government money by falsifying Oregen's financial information on a second application, submitted through a different bank, for the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.
Oregen, an inactive company, was reinstated by Harris in June 2020, shortly after the pandemic swept into the U.S. and the government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide relief for businesses and employees experiencing pandemic-related hardship. He submitted the applications under the PPP and EIDL programs between June and July of 2020.
Harris faces a single count of wire fraud in the Southern District of Florida — a federal felony that carries a maximum 20-year sentence. It appears he stepped down from his job with the Miami-Dade Police Department last month.
"An individual by that name resigned employment on April 12, 2023," the department tells New Times.
As previously reported by New Times, at least two other onetime South Florida police officers have been charged over the past 11 months with defrauding the federal government on pandemic-relief loans.
Jason Carter pleaded guilty in October 2022 to defrauding the EIDL program while serving as an officer with the Coral Springs Police Department. He received five years probation and was ordered to pay $30,000 in restitution and a $5,000 fine.
In March, Gregory Dennis was charged with wire fraud for submitting false, inflated financial information to secure $41,000 in PPP funds while he was on staff with the City of Miami police department. Dennis was relieved of duty when the charge surfaced, and he resigned from the force shortly after pleading guilty in April. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for June.
The FBI Tampa field office and the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services investigated Carter's case. Dennis' case was pursued by the FBI's Miami Area Corruption Task Force and the Small Business Administration Office of the Inspector General.
South Florida was a hotbed of fraudulent COVID-19 loan activity during the height of the pandemic. As of September 2022, South Florida federal prosecutors had seized more than $23.5 million in stolen funds and prosecuted more than 80 fraud cases tied to government-backed pandemic-relief loans.
While the COVID-19 outbreak peaked in the U.S. in early 2021, prosecutions over alleged pandemic-era fraud continue to pour into federal court. More than a dozen federal cases have been announced in the last 30 days with COVID-19-related fraud charges, Department of Justice records show.
Last year, the Department of Justice announced it was selecting its Southern District of Florida branch to head up one of three national COVID-19 "fraud strike force teams."