ATLANTA – Hunter VanPelt has been sentenced to prison for bank fraud related to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) when she obtained over $6 million in fraudulent proceeds.
“The Paycheck Protection Program is meant to help legitimate businesses and their workers through the depths of the pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “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.”
“The FBI will not tolerate anyone who misdirects federal emergency assistance intended for business who actually need it to stay operational,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “This sentence serves as a message that the FBI and our federal partners remain vigilant during this Coronavirus pandemic to make sure funds provided by programs like PPP are used as intended.”
“To support small and community banks, the Federal Home Loan banks can accept Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans as collateral when making advances to their members,” said Special Agent in Charge Edwin S. Bonano of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General. “The FHFA Office of Inspector General is proud to work with our partners in law enforcement to prevent, detect, and deter attempts to perpetrate fraud in the PPP program intended for small business owners and employees under this important part of the CARES Act.”
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Erskine, the charges and other information presented in court: VanPelt, a/k/a Hunter Lauren VanPelt, a/k/a Ellen Corkrum, a/k/a Ellen Yabba Kwame Corkrum, submitted six false and fraudulent PPP loan applications between April 27, 2020 and June 17, 2020. The amounts requested in the six PPP loans totaled $7,943,591.50, of which $6,017,066.50 was disbursed.
VanPelt owned or controlled the six entities that sought these PPP loans: Georgia Nephrology Physician Associated, United Healthcare Group & Co., Nephrology Network Group LLC, First Corporate International, Corkrum Consolidated Inc., and Kiwi International Inc. The defendant, who legally changed her name from Ellen Corkrum to Hunter VanPelt in July 2016, submitted the PPP loan applications under both names.
In each of the PPP loan applications, VanPelt falsely represented the average monthly payroll and the number of employees working for the relevant company. She also submitted false IRS records, false bank statements, and false payroll reports in connection with those applications.
Federal agents were able to seize approximately $2.1 million of the fraudulent proceeds.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020. It is designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses through the PPP. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding. Additional funding was authorized by Congress in December 2020.
The PPP allows qualifying small-businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of one percent. PPP loan proceeds must be used by businesses on payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. The PPP allows the interest and principal to be forgiven if businesses spend the proceeds on these expenses within eight weeks of receipt and use at least 75 percent of the forgiven amount for payroll.
Hunter VanPelt, a/k/a Hunter Lauren VanPelt, a/k/a Ellen Corkrum, a/k/a Ellen Yabba Kwame Corkrum, 49, of Roswell, Georgia, was sentenced to three years, five months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $7,002,031.50. She was also ordered to forfeit $2,077,381. VanPelt was convicted on these charges on August 18, 2021, after she pleaded guilty.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Huber, Deputy Chief of the Complex Frauds Section, and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Chris A. Wenger prosecuted the case.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.
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