Ellen Corkrum, Another Liberian Convicted for Fraud in the United States

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Monrovia – Two Liberians have been convicted in the United States for scamming the U.S. Government out of US$6.2 million in Payment Protection Program (PPP) funds.

Ellen Corkrum, 49 and Aaron Davis, 44 both were handed separate sentences by U.S Court for their crimes.

According to U.S. media, Corkrum, a resident of Roswell, Georgia, will be spending the next several years in prison after pleading guilty to scamming the federal government out of US$6 million in Payment Protection Program funds.

Prosecutors said, Corkrum, who is known as Hunter VanPelt, Hunter Lauren VanPelt, Ellen Corkrum and Ellen Yabba Kwame Corkrum, submitted fake PPP loan applications totaling $7,943,591.50.

She received US$6,017,066.50 from those April 2020 to June 2020 applications.

VanPelt reportedly owned or controlled six businesses seeking the loans, but lied on the number of employees working for each and the average monthly payroll. She also submitted fake IRS records, bank statements, and payroll reports. Federal agents were able to recover $2.1 million of the funds, according to WSB-TV.

VanPelt was sentenced to three years and five months in prison with five more years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay $7,002,031.50 in restitution.

Speaking after Vanpelt’s Sentence, U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine said “The Paycheck Protection Program is meant to help legitimate businesses and their workers through the depths of the pandemic.”

“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.”

Corkrum, who was once an official of the Liberian Government during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was indicted by the Liberian Government for embezzling public fund.

The current Weah-led administration once flaunted the idea of seeking her extradition to face trial in Liberia, but when she came to Liberia at her own will, the government dropped the criminal charges against her.

Three Years In Prison 

For Davis, he was sentenced on Tuesday to 36 months in prison for committing wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering against several banks, the Social Security Administration (“SSA”), and Sutter Health, a California healthcare company.

In pronouncing the sentence, U.S. District Judge Leonard P. Stark said proven losses from the defendant’s schemes totaled approximately $225,000.

According to court documents and testimony at the August 2021 trial, Davis engaged in a series of schemes with unknown accomplices to defraud the SSA, Sutter Health, Citizens Bank, and SunTrust Bank between July 2017 and October 2017.

One scheme involved serially opening bank accounts; depositing money fraudulently taken from Sutter Health and the SSA into those accounts; and withdrawing the money before those funds could be verified. The report said.

Another scheme involved depositing fraudulent checks into bank accounts and withdrawing funds before the fraudulent nature of the checks could be detected.  A third money laundering scheme involved moving the illegally acquired money from one bank account into another to make the funds appear legitimate. 

U.S. Attorney Weiss stated, “In a matter of only four months, Mr. Davis successfully stole approximately $225,000 while attempting to steal almost $1.3 million.  His schemes victimized the SSA, a nonprofit healthcare company, and banks, all of which provide vital services to millions of individuals across the country.  I commend the FBI and the SSA Office of the Inspector General for their steadfast commitment to ensuring justice in this case.” 

“Those facilitating and committing money laundering will continue to be investigated, prosecuted, and as in Mr. Davis’ case, sentenced to a significant term of imprisonment”, said Thomas J. Sobocinski, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Baltimore Field Office. “The FBI applauds the efforts of our partners in the SSA Office of the Inspector General and the United States Attorney’s Office in bringing Mr. Davis to justice. These complex financial crimes often require a web of individuals concealing monetary transactions in order to abscond with their illicit funds, the FBI is committed to unraveling these networks”.

The release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Delaware said the FBI’s Wilmington Resident Agency and SSA’s Office of the Inspector General investigated this case, while Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher R. Howland and Shamoor Anis prosecuted the case.

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