Austin St. John, who portrayed the Red Power Ranger on the popular 90s kids show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, has been arrested for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas announced Thursday.
St. John—whose legal name is Jason Lawrence Geiger—and 17 others are named in a federal indictment charging them with abusing the Paycheck Protection Program. The other co-defendants were either arrested or summoned for appearance before a federal magistrate judge.
Working for two ringleaders, St. John and others created fraudulent paperwork to obtain 16 PPP loans of at least $3.5 million total in funding, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
“On the applications, the defendants are alleged to have misrepresented material information such as the true nature of their business, the number of employees, and the amount of payroll,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
The money received was not spent on small business expenses as the program intended, but on personal purchases and kickbacks to the ringleaders, investigators say. In some cases, the money was given to one of the co-defendants for investing in foreign exchange markets.
The Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program was supposed to help companies with fewer than 500 employees in financial need during the pandemic with loans to help pay cover expenses like utilities and payroll. It was part of 2020’s CARES Act.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the IRS Criminal Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Eastern District of Texas.
If convicted, the defendants each face up to 20 years in federal prison.
The Red Power Ranger, Jason Lee Scott, was the first Power Ranger of the “modern era” of the faceless team, and its leader. He is also referred to as the Mighty Morphin Red Ranger or Red Mighty Morphin Ranger.
Former Red Mighty Morphin Ranger St. James was expected at the Iowa comic festival, Des Moines Con, but it was announced Thursday that he would be unable to attend due to “unforeseen personal obligations,” reports USA Today.
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