Jamaica couple charged with scamming COVID-19 rental relief funds from state: DA

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A Jamaica couple is charged with stealing COVID-19 rental relief intended only for property owners, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

Simon Holder, 38, and Shellon Gill, 32, were arraigned on Thursday, Oct. 28, before Queens Criminal Court Judge Denise Johnson on a criminal complaint charging them with grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and other crimes for allegedly filing for and receiving relief funds that are earmarked to help those negatively impacted by the pandemic.

According to the charges, Gill filled out and submitted an online application to have COVID-19 Residential Rent Relief funds sent to the owner of the home she was renting on Tuskegee Airmen Way in Jamaica. Gill allegedly falsely claimed she was the only person residing in the residence and directed the payment to be sent to co-defendant Holder at an address in Brooklyn.

The state Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) emailed a letter and other documents to be filled out by the presumed property owner, listed on the application as Simon Holder. The required paperwork was submitted to DHCR and a check was issued in the amount of $3,480 with Holder as the payee.

Katz said a senior attorney with DCHR spoke to the actual owner of the Tuskegee Airmen Way property, who indicated that both Holder and Gill were his tenants. According to the complaint, they moved into the rental unit in early 2019 and had not paid rent since mid-2019. The property owner secured an eviction notice but the COVID eviction moratorium prevented him from removing the couple from the unit.

Gill was contacted by DCHR and told to either give the $3,480 to the property owner or return the money to the state. The couple did neither.

Instead, Holder called the actual landlord and allegedly threatened to shoot him for reporting the incident to authorities.

“As alleged, these two defendants took advantage of a NYS Department of Housing and Community Renewal program that was created to keep people in their homes by paying their rent directly to the property owners,” Katz said. “Even after they were allegedly pocketing the money from the COVID-19 Residential Rent Relief Program, the tenants refused to return the funds and are now facing serious charges. We will not stand for this in Queens County.”

Judge Johnson ordered Holder and Gill to return to court on Dec. 10. If convicted, the couple faces up to seven years in prison.

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