Georgia woman gets prison time for COVID relief fraud
ATLANTA - A Georgia woman has been sentenced to serve nearly three and a half years in federal prison for fraudulently taking more than $6 million in COVID relief funds.
Federal prosecutors say 49-year-old Hunter VanPelt of Roswell submitted six false loan applications to the Paycheck Protection Program from April to June 2020. She requested a total of more than $7.9 million and received more than $6 million, prosecutors said in a news release.
Prosecutors said VanPelt, who legally changed her name from Ellen Corkrum in July 2016, owned or controlled six companies and lied about the average monthly payroll and number of employees at each company. She also filed false tax, bank and payroll documents along with those applications.
The Paycheck Protection Program represents billions of dollars in forgivable small business loans for Americans struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s part of the coronavirus relief package that became federal law in 2020.
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The federal government has been able to recover about $2.1 million of the money she received.
VanPelt pleaded guilty in August. The prison term of three years and five months that she received Tuesday is to be followed by five years of supervised release. The judge also ordered her to pay restitution of more than $7 million and to forfeit more than $2 million.
"The Paycheck Protection Program is meant to help legitimate businesses and their workers through the depths of the pandemic," U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine said in the release. "Unfortunately, VanPelt decided to use the program as her personal bank. A significant federal sentence, such as the one she received, hopefully deters others from following the same path."
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