St. Louis County Woman Admits $ 267,000 COVID-19 Rental Assistance Fraud | USAO-EDMO
St.  Louis County Woman Admits $ 267,000 COVID-19 Rental Assistance Fraud |  USAO-EDMO

St. Louis County Woman Admits $ 267,000 COVID-19 Rental Assistance Fraud | USAO-EDMO

ST. LOUIS – A woman in St. Louis Louis County, which posed as a landlord to receive $ 267,239 in pandemic-related financial assistance, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of wire fraud in U.S. District Court on Monday.

Semaj Portis, 42, admitted in her plea and in court that she used Emergency Rental Assistance and COVID-19 Emergency Solutions Grants, designed to help both landlords and their financially struggling tenants.

On January 15, 2021, Portis registered a company called Forever Riding with the Missouri Secretary of State. From that date until October 18, 2021, she submitted a total of 52 applications for rent assistance to the Missouri Housing Development Commission, which administered the assistance programs. Portis behaved herself or Forever Riding as a landlord and filed fraudulent leases, her plea says. Portis was not the landlord of any of the tenants listed in her fraudulent applications. In court Monday, she said she worked as a nurse for 12 years and then as a doctor.

Portis used the money for vacations, for the purchase of real estate and for other personal expenses.

Wire fraud carries a potential prison sentence of up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $ 250,000 or both. At her sentencing, scheduled for Aug. 26 in front of U.S. District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig, Portis will also be ordered to repay the money.

U.S. Attorney Sayler Fleming said, “Financial fraud is particularly serious when it comes to programs designed to help victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our office and law enforcement have aggressively investigated and prosecuted these cases.”

The case was investigated by the US Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Derek Wiseman is pursuing the case.

Anyone with information on rental fraud should contact the FBI [email protected] or (314) 589-2500.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.