NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A Virginia Beach husband and wife have been sentenced for their involvement in an internet-based loan scam that victimized nearly 1,700 people by cheating them out of over $1 million.
Court documents revealed that 60-year-old Ronald A. Smith and 53-year-old Terri Beth Miller, his wife and co-defendant, created a fake company called Business Development Group. The internet-based company charged people a fee to help them apply for SBA-guaranteed loans.
Officials say the couple solicited customers from August 2012 through February 2018 based on the basis of false, fraudulent, and misleading statements and representations.
On April 9, Ronald Smith was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the scheme. Terri Beth Miller was sentenced on April 16 to five years in prison for her role.
“Miller and Smith’s brazen scheme resulted in over a million dollars in losses and inflicted serious financial and emotional hardship to many of their nearly 1,700 victims,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “For those who seek to deprive our hardworking community members from receiving crucial financial assistance, you will be held accountable in EDVA and brought to justice.”
Back in October of 2020, Smith also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of fraudulently collecting unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic.
Smith and Miller offered the victims a “money-back guarantee,” but in fact employed various fraudulent methods to deny refunds.
Court records say that an aggregate sum of about $1,287,000 in advance fees was paid to the couple for their services. A majority of the customers did not receive an SBA guaranteed loan and the statement released said Smith did “virtually nothing to even attempt to obtain loans for their customers.”
Smith was convicted for an almost identical scam back in 2006 and received a seven year sentence.
He also made a false application to the Virginia Employment Commission for unemployment benefits which included an additional $600 per week in federal pandemic unemployment compensation under the CARES Act.
In the application, he falsely stated that he was not the owner or operator of a business and had not received income from another source. As a result of his false statements, Smith received $9,600 in federal pandemic unemployment compensation to which he was not entitled.