A Georgia woman was sentenced to more than three years in prison on Tuesday for fraud in raising more than $6 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, The Ministry of Justice said.
Hunter VanPelt, 49, has been sentenced to prison for bank fraud related to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a program that has made hundreds of billions of dollars in forgivable loans to small businesses and has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Authorities say VanPelt filed six fraudulent and fraudulent loan applications between April 27, 2020 and June 17, 2020 on behalf of companies it owned or controlled, totaling more than $7.9 million. VanPelt received just over $6 million in requested funds.
In each of the loan applications, authorities said, VanPelt lied about payroll and employee numbers and included false IRS records, false bank statements and false payroll reports.
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She was sentenced to three years and five months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, and paid more than $7 million in compensation. She was convicted in August 2021 after pleading guilty.
“The Paycheck Protection Program aims to assist legitimate businesses and their workers in the depths of the pandemic,” U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, VanPelt decided to use the software as its personal bank. Hopefully, an important federal sentence, like the one it received, will deter others from following the same path.”
Federal agents seized approximately $2.1 million in fraudulent funds.
The Department of Justice has prosecuted more than 150 defendants and seized more than $75 million in funds related to PPP fraud to date.
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