The alleged scheme netted the scammers $3.5 million.
What is PPP?
A ’90s actor who starred in the hit TV show “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” has been charged with perpetuating a scheme to defraud the U.S. government of CARES Act funds, according to the Department of Justice.
Austin St. John, who played the red Power Ranger on the show, which aired from 1993 to 1995, was one of 18 charged with filing fraudulent applications for loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, and transferring them to the two ringleaders of the scheme.
St. John, whose real name is Jason Geiger, allegedly obtained more than $400,000 in fraudulent PPP loans and transferred them to a co-defendant, not for the purposes of using the loans as they were intended. Each of the defendants faces up to 20 years in prison, according to the DOJ.
The Justice Department named Michael Hill and Andrew Moran as the alleged leaders of the scheme.
“Hill is alleged to have recruited co-conspirators to use an existing business or create a business to submit applications to obtain PPP funding,” according to a Justice Department press release. “Once enlisted, Moran is alleged to have assisted his co-conspirators with the application paperwork, including fabricating supporting documentation and submitting the application through the online portals.”
Court documents allege that St. John transferred $421,000 in fraudulently obtained PPP loans to Hill’s bank account.
In total, the defendants allegedly scammed the government out of $3.5 million.
Lawyers for St. John, Hill and Moran didn’t respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
St. John, 47, reprised his role in several Power Rangers off-shoots over the years, including most recently in a guest spot in the 2020 TV show “Power Rangers Beast Morphers.”
The CARES Act, which was signed into law by former President Donald Trump in March 2020, in part created a $669 billion small business loan program — known as the Paycheck Protection Program — to help businesses struggling to pay workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The second round of the PPP ended in May 2021.
The DOJ has prosecuted hundreds of millions of dollars in alleged PPP fraud since the creation of the program.