The Texas actor who played the red Power Ranger in the hit 1990s TV series and subsequent films was arrested Tuesday and charged with fraudulently obtaining COVID-19 relief loans.
Jason Lawrence Geiger, 47, starred in the franchise under the stage name Austin St. John.
He was arrested on Tuesday, and remains in jail awaiting a hearing in Plano, Texas, on Monday.
Geiger was one of 19 people charged for participating in the scheme, which federal authorities say resulted in $ 3.5 million in fraudulently obtained funds.
The scheme was spearheaded by 47-year-old Michael Hill – aka ‘Tank’ – and Andrew Moran, 43.
The two ringleaders recruited others to use ‘an existing business or create a business’ to apply for the loans, part of the $ 349 billion federal CARES Act, designed to help struggling businesses during the pandemic, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Texas.
Jason Lawrence Geiger, 47, starred in the Power Rangers films and TV 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 the 90s hero Power Ranger. He now faces up to 20 years in jail for fraud
Those in the network obtained the pandemic relief funds and paid Hill and Moran, who then used the money for themselves.
In some instances those accused sent the money to a man named Jonathan Spencer, 33, who invested it in foreign exchange markets, prosecutors said.
Geiger pleaded not guilty to the single charge against him, and his attorney said he plans to ‘vigorously defend himself against this allegation.’
Prosecutors across the country are now bringing charges against people for fraudulently obtaining loans.
In February, the daughter of a former South Florida mayor who recently ran for Congress was sentenced to prison for lying to obtain $ 300,000 in COVID-19 relief funds.
Damara Holness, 28, daughter of former Broward County mayor Dale Holness, was given a 20-month sentence for the Paycheck Protection Program fraud.
She pleaded guilty in November, a day after a Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat that her father ended up losing by five votes.
‘The defendant saw this as an opportunity to unjustly enrich herself by defrauding the program designed to help those struggling businesses,’ Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Kaplan wrote in court records.
Damara Holness’ lawyer, Sue-Ann Robinson, said it ‘was more an act of desperation than greed.’
She said some of the money went towards ‘housing arrangements’ and taxes.
Geiger is just the latest high-profile person to be arrested on charges of COVID loan fraud
Holness applied for the loan for her company, Holness Consulting. The application claimed that the company had an average monthly payroll of $ 120,000 in 2019 for its 18 employees.
The business was incorporated in November 2018 before becoming inactive.
‘The defendant reinstated the business on June 22, 2020, in order to obtain the PPP loan. The business had no employees and virtually no income, ‘the prosecutor 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. Once they cashed the checks, the ’employees’ kept $ 300 and returned the rest to Holness.
Holness apologized to the community, the government and to her family, the South Florida SunSentinel reported.
She noted that she affected her father’s career.
Dale Holness said his daughter has ‘accepted responsibility for her mistake.’
He added: ‘We’re all human. She’s acknowledged it. ‘