KY woman used fake documents in seeking COVID-19 money, aid

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Stock photo of a gavel and U.S. flag.

Stock photo of a gavel and U.S. flag.

File photo

A Kentucky woman has admitted using fake documents and identifying information on other people, including her grandchildren, to get more than $50,000 in coronavirus funding.

In one case, Crystal Elder submitted a photo of a business in the Philippines in an application for funding, according to the court record.

Elder, of Marion County, pleaded guilty in federal court in Frankfort on Aug. 23 to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Elder received a total of $52,505 from different coronavirus relief programs as a result of fraud, according to her plea agreement.

One was a program designed to help small businesses suffering a temporary loss of revenue.

Elder falsely said that her home health care business, Helping Hands of Central Kentucky LLC, had six employees, and also misrepresented the amount of expenses and revenue the business had.

She received a $6,000 loan based on the application, but used the money for unauthorized personal purchases from several businesses, including One Sexy Biker Chick, McDonalds, Tractor Supply, Loretto Lumber, Poshmark, Walmart and Dollar General, according to her plea.

She also wrote a $3,000 check for cash.

In another case, Elder received a forgivable loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to help businesses keep workers on the payroll during the economic slump caused by COVID-19.

Elder received $8,300 based on an application that included false information and used some of the money for personal purchases at Walmart, Lowe’s and other stores.

She also gave some money to family members and employees, according to the court record.

Elder also filed false applications for money from a program designed to pay landlords so renters wouldn’t be evicted during the pandemic.

In one application, Elder said she was her daughter’s landlord and that her daughter hadn’t paid rent in six months because of hardships caused by COVID-19.

Elder put false information in the application, including the amount of rent and that her daughter had failed to pay, and also included a forged check and fake eviction letter, her plea said.

Elder used identifying information on her daughter and grandchildren in the application without authority, according to her plea.

Elder also filed applications for eviction relief money on properties in Loretto, Springfield and Lebanon that she didn’t own, using applications with false information and identifying information from other people, the plea agreement said.

In another case, Elder submitted forged documents, including a health-department permit and a bill from a food supplier, in seeking money from a fund set up to help restaurants and bars, according to the court document.

The application was for something called the Helping Hands Cafe that was listed at Elder’s home address. The photo she submitted with the application was of a business in the Philippines with the same name, according to court documents.

Elder applied for a total of $120,406 from various coronavirus relief programs but some applications were denied.

The maximum sentence on the wire fraud charge would be 20 years in prison. There is a mandatory two-year sentence on the identity theft charge to be served on top of any sentence on the wire-fraud charge.

U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove scheduled sentencing for early next year.

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