diamond blue smith

Florida Rapper and Pennsylvania Tow Truck Owner Charged in $24,000,000 COVID-19 Fraud

PHILADELPHIA, PA. – A Florida rapper and a Pennsylvania towing company owner have been charged for their alleged participation in a scheme to file fraudulent loan applications seeking more than $24 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Diamond Blue Smith (of Pretty Ricky), 36, of Miramar, Florida, and Tonye C. Johnson, 28, of Flourtown, Pennsylvania, were charged in federal criminal complaints filed in the Southern District of Florida with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.  Smith was arrested and appeared yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Regina D. Cannon of the Northern District of Georgia.  Johnson was arrested on Oct. 1, 2020, and appeared on Oct. 2, 2020, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry S. Perkin of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

diamond blue smith
Diamond Blue Smith SOURCE: PRETTY RICKY TWITTER

The complaints, which were unsealed today, allege that Smith and Johnson conspired with others to obtain millions of dollars in fraudulent PPP loans. 

Smith, a recording artist, is alleged to have obtained a PPP loan of $426,717 for his company, Throwbackjersey.com LLC, using falsified documents.  Upon completion of that loan, Smith then sought and obtained another PPP loan of $708,065 for his other company, Blue Star Records LLC, using falsified documents.  Smith allegedly purchased a Ferrari for $96,000 and made other luxury purchases using PPP loan proceeds.  Authorities seized the Ferrari at the time of Smith’s arrest.  He is also alleged to have withdrawn $271,805 in loan proceeds.  The complaint further alleges that Smith sought PPP loans on behalf of others in order to receive kickbacks for those confederates.

Johnson is alleged to have obtained a PPP loan of $389,627 for his own company, Synergy Towing & Transport LLC, using falsified documents.  The complaint alleges that Johnson then paid a portion of the loan proceeds to co-conspirators in the scheme.

The complaints allege that Smith and Johnson conspired with others to obtain millions of dollars in fraudulent PPP loans.  Early in their scheme, Smith and Johnson’s co-conspirator, Phillip J. Augustin, allegedly obtained a fraudulent PPP loan for his talent management company using falsified documents.  After submitting that application, Augustin then began to work with other co-conspirators on a scheme to submit numerous fraudulent PPP loan applications for confederate loan applicants, in order to receive kickbacks for obtaining the forgivable loans for them.  The complaints allege that the scheme involved the preparation of at least 90 fraudulent applications, most of which were submitted.  Augustin, Smith, Johnson, and other conspirators in the scheme are alleged to have applied for PPP loans that are together worth more than $24 million.  Many of those loan applications were approved and funded by financial institutions, paying out at least $17.4 million.

The other 11 defendants allegedly involved in this scheme whose complaints were previously unsealed are the following:

  • Joshua J. Bellamy, 31, of St. Petersburg, Florida, was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed on Sept. 9, 2020, in the Southern District of Florida with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud;
     
  • Tiara Walker, 37, of Miami Gardens, Florida, was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed on Sept. 3, 2020, in the Southern District of Florida, with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud; 
     
  • Damion O. Mckenzie, 38, of Miami Gardens, Florida, was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed on Aug. 3, 2020, in the Southern District of Florida with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud;
     
  • Andre M. Clark, 46, of Miramar, Florida, was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed on Aug. 3, 2020, in the Southern District of Florida with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud;
     
  • Keyaira Bostic, 31, of Pembroke Pines, Florida, was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed on Aug. 3, 2020, in the Southern District of Florida with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud;
     
  • Phillip J. Augustin, 51, of Coral Springs, Florida, was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed on July 28, 2020, in the Northern District of Ohio with wire fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and obstruction;
     
  • Wyleia Nashon Williams, 44, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed on July 28, 2020, in the Northern District of Ohio with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud;
     
  • James R. Stote, 54, of Hollywood, Florida, was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed on June 24, 2020, in the Northern District of Ohio with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud;
     
  • Ross Charno, 46, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed on June 24, 2020, in the Northern District of Ohio with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud;
     
  • Deon D. Levy, 50, of Bedford, Ohio, was charged in a federal complaint filed on June 8, 2020, in the Northern District of Ohio with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud; and
     
  • Abdul-Azeem Levy, 22, of Cleveland, Ohio was charged in a federal complaint filed on June 8, 2020, in the Northern District of Ohio with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

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