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COVID-19: Upstate Woman Pleads Guilty To Pandemic Relief Fraud

Cash money
Cash money Photo Credit: Unsplash/Vladimir Solomianyi

A woman from the Capital District is facing years in prison after admitting that she took advantage of loan programs meant to help businesses struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Debra Hackstadt, age 67, of Albany, pleaded guilty Thursday, May 19, to fraudulently obtaining 32 government-backed loans, according to the US Attorney’s Office.

The loans were issued to Hackstadt herself, various friends and relatives, and several companies that she controlled, prosecutors said.

In all, investigators said she received more than $1.6 million between April 2020 and June 2021 through two separate relief programs - the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs).

Hackstadt was able to secure the funds by lying to the Small Business Administration (SBA) and various private lenders on loan applications, including by making up or exaggerating the total number of employees and payrolls, prosecutors said.

She also falsified tax documents to secure many of the PPP loans, according to prosecutors.

In addition to the pandemic relief fraud, Hackstadt also admitted that she obtained, and quickly defaulted on, two other business loans from private lenders totaling more than $90,000, prosecutors said.

She’s agreed to pay more than $250,000 in restitution.

Hackstadt faces up to 20 years in prison when she’s sentenced Thursday, Oct. 6. 

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