Judge sentences Missouri woman to 1 year in prison for $276k COVID rent relief fraud

A US District Court judge has sentenced a St. Louis woman to one year in prison, as well as requiring her to repay $267,000 she received in fraudulent COVID-19 relief money from the federal government.

Semaj Portis will spend one year and one day in federal prison, and will have to pay back $267,239 she received from the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic by submitting dozens of false applications claiming she was the landlord for multiple properties she did not own. 

According to the DOJ, Portis registered a company called Forever Riding in early 2021. She then submitted 52 false applications to the Missouri Housing Development Commission for Emergency Rental Assistance and COVID-19 Emergency Solutions Grants, which were meant to assist struggling landlords and their tenants who experienced financial hardship during the pandemic.

“For too many Missourians, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented time of financial hardship, turmoil, and suffering. But for Defendant Semaj Portis, it constituted a lucrative opportunity to line her pockets with relief payments earmarked for struggling Missourians,” said Assistant US Attorney Derek Wiseman.

The sentencing memo claims Portis used the funds she received from the fraudulent claims to pay for properties and vacations for herself.




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Laura is a freelance writer out of Maryland and a mom of three. Her background is in political science and international relations, and she has been doing political writing and editing for 17 years. Laura has also written parenting pieces for the Today Show and is currently working on writing a collection of remarkable true stories about normal people. She writes for FBA because unbiased news is vital to unity, and readers deserve the facts free of opinion.

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