Miami Social Media Star Faces Jail Time for Misusing Relief Funds

A famous Miami real estate professional and online star, Daniela Rendon, will spend time in jail. Why? She used money meant for COVID relief in ways she wasn’t supposed to. Reports say she bought a stylish car, a fancy apartment, and even got plastic surgery with this money.

She received $381,000 from programs meant to help businesses during hard times. These programs are the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans. But here’s the twist: The way she got the money was by not being honest. People looking into the matter say she gave wrong information about her business. She said she made more money than she did, had employees when she didn’t and showed bigger payroll numbers than were real. She even provided incorrect tax papers.

A report from USA Today added more to the story. It said Rendon listed family and friends as workers to get more money.

There’s another surprising part. Rendon wrote a very long story, like 30 pages, about the bad effects of COVID-19 on people. She also wrote about her idea to start groups to help people suffering from the disease and the lockdowns.

In a courtroom, this 31-year-old mother opened up about her actions. She said, “I just wanted more, even if it wasn’t right.” She felt like a lot of people were doing the same thing. But she realized she wasn’t just tricking some big organization, she was hurting real people.

Last week, a decision was made about her punishment. Rendon will be in jail for three and a half years. Earlier, in April, she said she was guilty of one act of fraud. Then, other charges she faced were removed. These charges were about fraud, using another person’s name without permission, and hiding money.

The judge, K. Michael Moore, picked her jail time. He acknowledged that she was regretful. He could have given her a much longer sentence, like 20 years, just for the fraud. But he chose a shorter time. Her lawyers hoped she would only get five years without jail, but that didn’t happen.

Judge Moore reminded her that the money she used wrongly belonged to regular people. He said, “Normal people’s money goes to the government. That’s how we get programs to help.”

When COVID-19 first started, the government gave out a lot of money to help businesses. They are now trying to get back the large amount, like $200 billion, that wasn’t used correctly.