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Virginia Beach couple sentenced for cheating 1,700 victims in internet loan scams

Their scam defrauded people out of $1,076,000. Authorities say they also fraudulently collected unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Credit: heliopix - stock.adobe.com

NORFOLK, Va. — A Virginia Beach couple has been sentenced after pleading guilty to fraudulently taking over $1 million from victims seeking loans. 

60-year-old Ronald A. Smith was sentenced to 10 years in prison on April 9. A week later his wife, 53-year-old Terri Beth Miller, was sentenced to five years for her role in the crime.

According to a news release from the Department of Justice, the couple defrauded nearly 1,700 people out of $1,076,000. Authorities say Smith also fraudulently collected unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials said the couple defrauded people from their company Business Development Group. This online company advertised that, for a fee, it could help people work through the application process to obtain Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. 

Most of the Business Development Group's customers never saw those loans. The DOJ said in many cases, customers weren't offered any help whatsoever with their applications.

Between 2012 and 2018, authorities said the couple solicited potential customers on the basis of false, fraudulent, and misleading statements and representations, including:

  • their 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
  • it had assisted well-known large companies in obtaining SBA loans

Smith was charged for a nearly identical scam in 2006 and was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison back then. 

In 2008, Miller was prosecuted in Pennsylvania for malicious destruction of property by fire after authorities say she set fire to a business to obtain the insurance proceeds.

Unrelated to his company's loan fraud charges, Smith also pleaded guilty to applying for unemployment under the CARES Act while running his business. He took $9,600 in pandemic unemployment checks "to which he was not entitled."