American actor Austin St John, who is popularly known for playing the Red Ranger, Jason Lee Scott, in the Power Ranger franchise instalments, was arrested for filing fraudulent applications seeking loans from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the Deadline reported.
PPP is established by the US government’s Cares Act and it aims to provide small businesses with the resources they need to maintain their payroll, hire back employees who may have been laid off, and cover applicable overhead. According to the Department of Justice, John along with 17 others was charged with this fraudulent case and the team had allegedly transferred the money to the defraud scheme’s ringleaders.
The report noted that John had allegedly acquired $400,000 in the fraudulent PPP loans. If convicted, John would have to undergo imprisonment of upto 20 years. The Justice Department identified 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,” Justice Department mentioned in the press release.
They also stated that “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.” The report further mentioned that a total of $3.5 million was obtained allegedly by all of the accused.
Meanwhile, in a statement, John’s lawyer, David Klaudt, said that he does not plead guilty. “An indictment is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and Mr St. John intends to vigorously defend himself against this allegation,” he added. The case is currently being investigated by the FBI and IRS – Criminal Investigations, with Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Eastern District of Texas prosecuting.
The 47-year-old actor was cast as a teen superhero, the Red Power Ranger in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the first installment of the Power Rangers franchise, which was released on Fox Kids in 1993. He also appeared in various shows including the 2020 TV show Power Rangers Beast Morphers.