NORFOLK, Va. – A Virginia Beach man was sentenced today to 10 years in prison for his role in an internet-based loan scam that defrauded nearly 1,700 owners and prospective owners of small businesses out of $1,076,000, and for fraudulently collecting unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to court documents, Ronald A. Smith, 60, and his co-defendant and wife, Terri Beth Miller, 53, set up an internet-based company, Business Development Group, that offered, in exchange for an advance fee, assistance to individuals in preparing applications to obtain loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. From August 2012 through February 2018, Smith and Miller solicited potential customers on the basis of false, fraudulent, and misleading statements and representations, including that the company was headquartered at the Trump Building in New York City with additional offices in Las Vegas, that it was affiliated with the SBA, that it had favorable relationships with banks across the nation, and had assisted well-known large companies in obtaining SBA loans. They offered a money-back guarantee, but in fact employed various fraudulent methods to deny refunds.

“Smith’s brazen scheme resulted in over a million dollars in losses and inflicted serious financial and emotional hardship to many of his 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…

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