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Former South Florida police officer pleads guilty to COVID-19 relief fraud

A former South Florida police officer pleaded guilty Monday to stealing about $285,000 in COVID-19 relief funds.

Former Miami-Dade police officer Samuel Harris, 43, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in Miami federal court, according to court documents. He faces up to 20 years in prison at a sentencing hearing scheduled for Sept. 25.

According to court documents, Harris falsely claimed in a June 2020 Paycheck Protection Program loan application that his business, Oregen Digital Inc., had 10 employees and a monthly payroll of more than $50,000. Prosecutors said Harris was able to obtain a forgivable loan of $125,579.

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Harris also falsely claimed in a Economic Injury Disaster Loan application submitted to the Small Business Administration that Oregen had annual gross revenues of more than $859,000 and 10 employees. Prosecutors said Harris received a $10,000 advance that did not need to be repaid and $149,900 in loan proceeds.

The Paycheck Protection Program involves billions of dollars in forgivable small-business loans for Americans struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The money must be used to pay employees, mortgage interest, rent and utilities. It is part of the coronavirus relief package that became federal law in 2020. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is designed to provide economic relief to small businesses that are experiencing a temporary loss of revenue.

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