PLANO, Texas — A former “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” star is facing a fraud charge after he was among 19 people named in a federal indictment this month.
According to the Beaumont Examiner and HuffPost, 47-year-old Jason Lawrence Geiger, best known by the stage name Austin St. John, and 17 of the other defendants were arrested or summoned after being accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Texas said in a news release Thursday.
Federal prosecutors said Michael Lewayne Hill, 47, of Mineral Wells, and Andrew Charles Moran, 43, of Lewisville, led Geiger and the others in defrauding lenders and the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program of $3.5 million, according to the release.
“Hill is alleged to have recruited co-conspirators to use an existing business or create a business to submit applications to obtain PPP funding,” the release said. “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.”
After the funds were approved and sent to the defendants, they “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,” according to the release. Prosecutors alleged that “the defendants typically paid Hill and Moran, transferred money to their personal accounts, and spent the funds on various personal purchases.”
In addition to Hill, Moran and Geiger, the release identified the following suspects: Peter Keovongphet, 34, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Ty Alan Burkhart, 34, of Frisco; Eric Reed Marascio, 50, of Allen; Christopher Lee McElfresh, 43, of Frisco; Cord Dean Newman, 44, of Homosassa, Florida; Elmer Omar Ayala, 45, of Midlothian; Gregory Fitzgerald Hatley Jr., 38, of Allen; Alexander Eric Cortesano, 52, of Dallas; Arthur Atik Pongtaratik, 33, of Carrollton; Miles Justin Urias, 34, of Richardson; Fabian C. Hernandez, 44, of Lake Alfred, Florida; Daniel Lee Warren, 33; Rajaa Bensellam, 49, of Allen; Hadi Mohammed Taffal, 50, of Allen; and Jonathon James Spencer, 33, of Rowlett.
Geiger, of McKinney, was the first actor to play Red Ranger Jason Lee Scott in the 1990s TV series, HuffPost reported. In a Facebook post Thursday, agency Galactic Productions said Geiger won’t be able to make a planned weekend appearance at Iowa’s Des Moines Con because of “unforeseen personal obligations,” according to the news outlet.
As of early Friday, Geiger hadn’t commented publicly on the allegations.
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