‘Red Ranger’ among 18 named in COVID-19 relief fraud case

Jason Lawrence Geiger aka Austin St. John at the “Power Rangers” premiere on March 22, 2017.

Federal prosecutors say 18 people, including an actor who played a color-coded superhero in an iconic 1990s TV show, conspired to steal funds from a government program aimed at helping small businesses survive the recession. coronavirus pandemic.

Jason Laurent Geiger, 47, was charged on Wednesday in connection with an alleged COVID-19 aid scheme. Geiger, also known as Austin Saint Johnis best known as an actor on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangersa long-running children’s adventure program.

Even the justice department highlighted Geiger’s acting career in his press release, identifying him as “the Red Power Ranger.” Her character was part of a group of five (fictional) teenagers who defended the Earth against alien attacks. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers originally ran from 1993 to 1996.

According to the authorities, the main defendants Michael “Tank” Lewayne Hill47, and Andre Charles Moran43, conspired to defraud lenders and the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which was launched at the start of the coronavirus pandemic when businesses were forced to close.

“Hill allegedly recruited co-conspirators to use an existing business or start a business to submit applications for PPP funding,” the DOJ wrote. “Once enlisted, Moran allegedly assisted his co-conspirators with the application materials, including fabricating supporting documents and submitting the application through online portals. On the claims, the defendants allegedly misrepresented important 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.

The defendants did not use the money as intended, prosecutors say. The money should have been used to pay employees, cover debt or utility payments, or continue health benefits for employees. Instead, the defendants allegedly placed this money in personal accounts and used it for personal gain.

“The defendants sent the fraudulently obtained funds to Jonathan [James] spencer for alleged investments in foreign exchange markets,” the DOJ wrote. “In total, the defendants allegedly fraudulently obtained at least 16 loans and at least $3.5 million.”

Spencer, 33, is among 18 defendants.

Geiger, however, is the one grabbing attention, thanks to his acting background. Under the stage name Austin St. John, he was the very first Red Ranger in the show Power Rangers, which was a long-running adaptation of various team-based superhero shows from Japan. The episodes largely stick to an ingrained formula in which the five color-coded heroes battle monsters, step into big robots to battle bigger monsters, and combine those robots into one giant to defeat the toughest challenges.

This time, Geiger would have been involved with the wrong team. He and his co-defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in federal prison, according to the DOJ.

Lawyers for Geiger, Hill, Moran and Spencer did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment.

Neither did the lawyers for the co-accused Rajaa Bensellam49, Ty Alan Burkhart34, Alexandre Eric Cortesano52, Gregory Fitzgerald Hatley Jr.38, Fabian C. Hernandez44, Eric Reed Marascio (aka Phoenix Marcon)50, Christopher Lee McElfresh43, Dean Newman Cord44, Arthur Atik Pongtaratik, 33and Hadi Mohammed Taffal50.

Elmer Omar Ayala45, Peter “Lil’ Pete” Keovongphet34, Miles Justin Urias34, and Daniel Lee Warren33, don’t have a lawyer on file.

Most of the defendants are from Texas, others from Florida or, in Warren’s case, from an “address unknown”.

[Image via  Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]

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