Albany Woman Pleads Guilty to COVID-19 Relief Fraud
Admits to Fraudulently Obtaining 32 Pandemic Relief Loans Exceeding $1.6 Million
ALBANY, NEW YORK – Debra Hackstadt, age 67, of Albany, pled guilty today to fraudulently obtaining 32 government-backed loans meant for businesses struggling with the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement was made by United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman and Janeen DiGuiseppi, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
In pleading guilty, Hackstadt admitted that between April 30, 2020 and June 11, 2021, she fraudulently obtained $1,615,546 from two pandemic relief loan programs – the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”), whose loans are issued by private financial institutions and backed by the federal government, and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (“EIDLs”), which are issued directly by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). These loans were issued to Hackstadt herself, certain of her family members and acquaintances, and several companies controlled by Hackstadt or her family members.
Hackstadt committed the fraud by lying to the SBA and various PPP lenders on loan applications, including by making up and grossly overstating the employees and payrolls of the companies and sole proprietorships for which she obtained loans. Many of the PPP applications also included false tax documents that Hackstadt created as part of the scheme. In total, Hackstadt’s scheme resulted in the issuance of 27 PPP loans and five EIDLs.
Hackstadt also admitted that in addition to these loans, she fraudulently obtained two other business loans from private lenders. She fraudulently obtained a $42,290 loan in October-November 2019, and promptly defaulted on it, and fraudulently obtained a $48,500 loan in June 2021, and promptly defaulted on it.
Hackstadt faces up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced on October 6, 2022 by Chief United States District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors. Hackstadt has also agreed to pay restitution, and to entry of a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $254,812, representing the amount of money she personally obtained from the fraud.
This case was investigated by the FBI, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Barnett and Joshua R. Rosenthal.
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.