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Ex-sheriff’s deputy in Broward County sentenced for pandemic relief loan fraud

Sunrise, Florida – A former deputy sheriff from Broward County, Stephanie Diane Smith, was sentenced to seven months in prison last week after being found guilty of engaging in a fraudulent scheme involving COVID-19 relief funds. The case, which concluded in a federal court in Fort Lauderdale, has highlighted issues of misuse in pandemic relief efforts.

Fraudulent Applications Lead to Conviction

Stephanie Diane Smith, 54, faced charges related to her deceptive actions in acquiring loans from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). A federal jury convicted Smith in March 2024 of two counts of wire fraud, marking a significant turn in the investigation into abuses of COVID-19 financial aid.

In 2021, while still serving as a deputy sheriff, Smith applied for PPP loans claiming to be a sole proprietor of two businesses: Children 1st Basketball Training and Agape Smith Vending. According to the prosecution, she submitted applications that included materially false information about the businesses’ gross incomes for 2019 and provided falsified IRS tax documents.

The loans, which were meant to support struggling businesses during the pandemic, totaled over $31,000 in principal and interest. Smith successfully sought forgiveness for these loans, further compounding the fraud.

Legal Repercussions and Penalties

U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn handed down the sentence, which also includes a three-year term of supervised release following her prison term. In addition to her incarceration, Smith is ordered to pay restitution amounting to $31,108 and a fine of $2,000. She will also be subject to forfeiture as part of the penalties for her actions.

Alfred Duncan

Alfred Duncan is a senior editor at The South Florida Daily, where he oversees our coverage of politics, misinformation, health and economics. Alfred is a former reporter and editor for BuzzFeed News, National Geographic and USA Today.

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