A Texas actor who played the red Power Ranger in 1990s television series and films has been arrested and charged with fraudulently obtaining COVID-19 relief loans.
Jason Lawrence Geiger, 47, starred in the films under the stage name Austin St. John.
He was arrested on Tuesday and is awaiting a hearing in Plano on Monday in jail.
Geiger was one of 19 people charged with participating in the scam that fraudulently obtained $3.5 million.
The program was run by Michael Hill aka “Tank”, 47, and Andrew Moran, 43.
The two ringleaders recruited others to “use an existing business or start a business” to apply for the loans, which are part of the federal $349 billion CARES Act, which found the company struggling during the to support the pandemic.
Jason Lawrence Geiger, 47, has starred in the Power Rangers films and television series under the stage name Austin St. John. He was arrested on Tuesday and charged with COVID loan fraud
Geiger was one of 19 people arrested for their role in the $3.5 million scam
Geiger (far left) is seen with the other original Power Rangers – from left: Walter Jones, Jason David Frank and David Yost at the premiere of the 2017 Power Rangers film
Geiger in action as ’90s hero Power Ranger. He now faces up to 20 years in prison for fraud
Those on the network received the Pandemic Relief Fund and paid or used the money for Hill and Moran.
In some cases, the defendants sent the money to Jonathan Spencer, 33, to invest in foreign exchange markets, prosecutors said.
Geiger has pleaded not guilty to the only charge against him, and his attorney said he plans to “vigorously defend himself against that allegation.”
Prosecutors across the country are now charging people for fraudulent lending.
In February, the daughter of a former South Florida mayor who recently ran for Congress was sentenced to prison for lying to receive $300,000 in COVID-19 relief funds.
Damara Holness, 28, daughter of former Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for fraud under the Paycheck Protection Program.
She pleaded guilty in November, a day after a Democratic primary for a seat in the US House of Representatives, which her father lost by five votes.
“The defendant saw this as an opportunity to unfairly enrich herself by defrauding the program designed to help these ailing companies,” US Assistant Attorney Jeffrey Kaplan wrote in court filings.
Damara Holness’s attorney, Sue-Ann Robinson, said it was “an act of desperation rather than greed.”
She said some of the money went to “housing arrangements” and taxes.
Geiger is just the latest high-profile person to be arrested for COVID loan fraud
Holness applied for the loan on behalf of her business, Holness Consulting. The filing alleged that the company had an average monthly payroll of $120,000 for its 18 employees in 2019.
The company was founded in November 2018 before going dormant.
“Defendant resumed business on June 22, 2020 to receive the PPP loan. The company had no employees and virtually no income,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.
Prosecutors said Holness spent months creating a paper trail after receiving the money.
Court documents showed she paid 22 people, including a school bus driver and a security guard, about $1,300 every two weeks. After cashing the checks, the “employees” kept $300 and returned the rest to Holness.
Holness apologized to the community, the government and her family, the South Florida SunSentinel reported.
She noted that she influenced her father’s career.
Dale Holness said his daughter “took responsibility for her mistake.”
He added: “We are all human. She acknowledged it.”