POWER Rangers star Austin St. John faces a 20-year sentence after being accused of participating in a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme.
The actor – real name Jason Lawrence Geiger – is one of 18 people named in a federal indictment charged with violations of the Texas wire fraud conspiracy.
According to the indictment, St. John allegedly conspired to create or use existing businesses to fraudulently submit applications to the Small Business Administration to obtain funding from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The defendants are alleged to have managed to obtain 16 or more loans and at least $3.5 million.
Fans fear plans for a 30th anniversary reunion of the original Power Rangers will have to be scrapped as the 47-year-old could face 20 years in prison if convicted.
All of the show’s actors were asked by Hasbro to come together, but St. John’s legal troubles have cast doubt on whether it will go ahead.
Prosecutors allege St. John — best known for playing the show’s original Red Power Ranger — and his co-defendants paid the program’s ringleaders and spent cash on personal purchases.
A press release from the Eastern District of Texas Department of Justice says 18 defendants have either been arrested or summoned to appear before a federal judge
According to the indictment, the defendants, led by Michael Hill and Andrew Moran, allegedly carried out a scheme to defraud lenders and the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
“Hill is said to have recruited co-conspirators to use an existing company or set up a company to submit requests for PPP funding.
“Once he was drafted, Moran is said to have helped his co-conspirators with the application paperwork, including preparing supporting documentation and submitting the application through the online portals.
“The motions allege that the defendants misrepresented essential information such as the true nature of their business, the number of employees and the amount of payroll.”
According to the indictment, the SBA and other institutions approved and granted loans to the accused based on the “material representations”.
It continues: “Once the defendants received the fraudulently obtained funds, they used the funds for purposes other than those intended, such as paying employee salaries, covering fixed debt or pension benefits, or continuing to provide health care benefits to employees.
“Instead, the defendants typically paid Hill and Moran, transferred money to their personal accounts, and spent the money on various personal purchases.”
The government set up the Paycheck Protection Program to use taxpayers’ money to lend to support small businesses and their workers who are being handicapped by the coronavirus pandemic.
More than $349 billion worth of forgivable loans have been provided by the US Treasury Department to help small businesses pay their employees during the crisis.
St. John rose to fame when he was cast as teenage superhero Jason Lee Scott in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers – the first installment in the franchise that debuted on Fox Kids in 1993.
He left the show mid-season with two other co-stars before reprising the role in season four and the second film.
He has also appeared in films such as A Walk with Grace and Monsters At Large.
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