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.
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: KCUR.ORG
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