USA–A judge in Atlanta Georgia has ordered the incarceration of former Liberia AirPort Director General Ellen Corkrum to more than three years in federal state prison for fraudulently obtaining more than US$6 million in Covid relief funds. A US media has reported.
The decision reached Tuesday, Jan 5, is the latest move by the US to go after Americans who misused or fraudulently obtained US Paycheck Protection Program funds valued at US$2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid passed by Congress in 2020.
The Justice Department said Tuesday, Hunter VanPelt who was later identified as Ellen Corkrum received over US$6 million in August last year after submitting six loan applications for a total of more than 7.9 million for companies she owned or controlled.
The 49 year old Liberian woman later pleaded guilty to bank fraud and wire fraud after prosecutors caught her lying about payroll expenses and the number of people her companies employed.
Court records showed she also submitted fraudulent tax records, payroll reports and bank statements to justified the request. Meanwhile, the Justice Department said on Tuesday that it had recovered about $2.1 million of the $6 million she received.
They also noted that a bank had also seized and returned an additional $1.6 million.The giant loan program, which ran intermittently from April 2020 to May 2021, relied on banks and other lenders. To speed the lending process, the federal government waived much of the vetting that lenders traditionally do on business loans.
The program has been highly susceptible to fraud. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin estimated in August that about $76 billion of its $800 billion in loans might have been taken improperly. (They also made a more conservative estimate of $38 billion.)
The Justice Department said on Tuesday that it had prosecuted more than 150 defendants so far and seized more than $75 million in cash derived from fraudulent loans through the program, along with properties and luxury items.
Last month, a former New York Jets wide receiver, Joshua J. Bellamy, was sentenced to 37 months in prison after he fraudulently obtained more than $1.2 million through the Paycheck Protection Program for a company that he owned.
Prosecutors said that Mr. Bellamy had spent more than $100,000 of the funds on luxury goods from Dior, Gucci and other brands. He pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.