Roswell woman gets 3 years in prison for $6 million PPP scam

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

A former Fulton County businesswoman who stole more than $6 million in pandemic relief funds will spend the next three years behind bars, according to a judge’s ruling.

Hunter VanPelt, a 49-year-old Roswell woman, defrauded the federal government using the Paycheck Protection Program, meant to help small businesses stay afloat and retain employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. She secured more than $6 million worth of PPP loans with fraudulent applications.

VanPelt was sentenced to three years and five months in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced in a news release Tuesday. She was also ordered to pay more than $7 million in restitution, according to the announcement.

“The Paycheck Protection Program is meant to help legitimate businesses and their workers through the depths of the pandemic,” Kurt Erskine, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, 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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Federal agents said VanPelt submitted six different PPP loan applications between April and June 2020 requesting more than $7.9 million in federal aid for several businesses she owned or controlled.

VanPelt legally changed her name to Ellen Corkrum in 2016 and applied for the loans using both her current and former names.

All of the applications she submitted had false information such as overinflated figures for monthly payroll, investigators discovered. She also misrepresented the size of her staff on the documents.

VanPelt also provided false IRS records and fake bank statements and payroll reports as supporting documentation to go along with her applications.

Federal agents seized about $2.1 million from VanPelt, who pleaded guilty to the allegations and was convicted of bank fraud in federal court Aug. 18.

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Agents said the PPP loans were designed to help small business owners with low-interest loans that were forgivable in certain circumstances.

VanPelt, once a high-ranking government official in Liberia, was indicted in the African nation on multiple corruption and financial fraud charges, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported.