A woman from Missouri was sentenced to one year and one day in prison.

A woman from Missouri was sentenced to one year and one day in prison.

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A woman from Missouri filed 52 bogus rent applications for her and her “tenants” during the COVID-19 pandemic — and received $267,239 through her scam, according to federal authorities.

Semaj Portis of St. Louis County has now been sentenced to a year and one day in prison. She was also ordered to pay back the money she obtained fraudulently, according to an Oct. 7 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Authorities said the scheme began in January 2021 when Portis registered a company called Forever Riding as a nonprofit in Missouri. She identified herself as the founder and registered agent, according to court records.

Portis then submitted 52 rent applications to the Missouri Housing Development Commission, federal authorities said. On those forms, she listed herself or Forever Riding as the landlord and submitted fake leases.

“None of these applications were legitimate,” prosecutors said. “Indeed, (Portis) did not own any of the properties listed in those applications, and she was not the landlord of any of the tenants listed in those applications.”

But her applications for emergency rental assistance were accepted, and authorities said she received a grant designed to help “landlords and their tenants who are experiencing financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

An attorney representing Portis, 43, did not respond to McClatchy News’ Oct. 10 request for comment.

“For too many Missourians, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented period of financial hardship, turmoil and suffering,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Derek Wiseman said in a sentencing memorandum. “But for defendant Semaj Portis, this was a lucrative opportunity to line his pockets with relief payments intended for struggling Missourians.”

Portis used the fraudulently obtained money to pay for vacations and real estate, authorities said.

Caitlin Alanis is a reporter for McClatchy National Real-Time who lives in Kansas. She is a graduate of Kansas State University with a degree in Agricultural Communications and Journalism.