Nineteen people have been named in a federal indictment charging them with violations in the Eastern District of Texas, according to the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO). Jason Lawrence Geiger, better known for his stage name Austin St. John, (47) of McKinney, TX, is one of the 19 people charged in this case.
St. John along with the 18 others are alleged to have executed a scheme to defraud lenders and the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program according to the release from the USAO.
Eastern District of Texas Department of Justice Press Release
According to the indictment, the defendants, led by Michael Hill and Andrew Moran, are alleged to have executed a scheme to defraud lenders and the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Hill is alleged to have recruited co-conspirators to use an existing business or create a business to submit applications to obtain PPP funding. 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.
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. Based on these material misrepresentations, the SBA and other financial institutions approved and issued loans to the defendants. Once in receipt of the fraudulently obtained funds, the defendants did not use the money as intended, such as to pay employee salaries, cover fixed debt or utility payments, or continue health care benefits for employees.
Instead, the defendants typically paid Hill and Moran, transferred money to their personal accounts, and spent the funds on various personal purchases. In other instances, the defendants sent the fraudulently obtained funds to Jonathon Spencer for purported investment in foreign exchange markets. In total, the defendants are alleged to have fraudulently obtained at least 16 loans and at least $3.5 million.
If convicted, the defendants each face up to 20 years in federal prison.
The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.
The PPP allows qualifying small-businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1 percent. PPP loan proceeds must be used by businesses on payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. The PPP allows the interest and principal to be forgiven if businesses spend the proceeds on these expenses within eight weeks of receipt and use at least 75 percent of the forgiven amount for payroll.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Eastern District of Texas.
A grand jury indictment is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
How Will Austin St. John’s Arrest Effect The 30th Anniversary of Power Rangers?
St. John rose to fame in the early 90s as Jason Scott, the original Red Ranger, in the wildly popular superhero franchise, Power Rangers. St. John appeared on the show until 1994 when he along with two other co-stars left the show midway through the second season. He later went on to reprise his role in the series’ fourth season as well as the second movie. He has also made a couple of guest appearances since his departure.
The Illuminerdi has reported numerous details in regards to the upcoming 30th Anniversary of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers where all of the original actors, including, St. John, were asked to return. It is currently unknown how this effect the planned reunion; however, it seems safe to say that this could potentially throw a wrench in Hasbro’s plans.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993) stars Austin St. John as Jason / the Red Ranger, Thuy Trang as Trini / the Yellow Ranger, Walter Emanuel Jones as Zack / the Black Ranger, Amy Jo Johnson as Kimberly / the Pink Ranger, David Yost as Billy / the Blue Ranger, Jason David Frank as Tommy / the Green Ranger, Paul Schrier as Bulk, Jason Narvy as Skull, David Fielding as Zordon, Machiko Soga as Rita Repulsa, and Richard Genelle as Ernie.
Source: United States Attorney’s Office