Uh oh. A childhood hero has been caught by the FBI for alleged fraud!
According to the Department of Justice, Austin St. John, who played the red Power Ranger in the ‘90s hit show, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, has been charged for allegedly taking part in a massive fraud scheme that raked in $3.5 million meant for small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
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A neighbor in the actor’s McKinney, Texas neighborhood told TMZ that approximately 15 FBI agents in tactical gear and carrying AR-15s approached Austin’s house at 7 a.m. on Thursday. They entered the home and then came out with St. John in handcuffs! He has been accused of being one of 18 people who scammed the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. The loans were intended to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic.
According to a press release by the DOJ, the 47-year-old, born Jason Lawrence Geiger, was indicted by a federal grand jury on May 12 with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The report read:
“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. Based on these material misrepresentations, the [Small Business Administration] and other financial institutions approved and issued loans to the defendants.”
Once the funds were distributed to the individuals, officials claim they were not used properly, adding that defendants “transferred money to their personal accounts, and spent the funds on various personal purchases.”
Ermm… how did the government know where the funds went? What, did they spy on their bank accounts or something??
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The Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie alum responded to the accusations via an official statement written by talent agent and producer Zachery McGinnis shared on Instagram on Friday, saying:
“Austin St. John is a father, husband, role model and friend to many. The indictment detailed today is populated by a multitude of individuals – the majority of which Austin has no knowledge of, and has never met or interacted with. It is our understanding that Austin put his faith, reputation, and finances in the hands of third parties whose goals were self-centered and ultimately manipulated and betrayed his trust. We expect Austin’s legal team to successfully defend against these charges and lead to his ultimate exoneration. We ask that you respect the privacy of Austin’s family in light of this serious situation, and thank you for your support.”
Galactic Productions also released a statement on Facebook sharing that the martial artist would no longer be able to attend a Des Moines Con this weekend due to “unforeseen personal obligations.”
Similarly, St. John’s attorney, David Klaudt, told NBC News:
“An indictment is not evidence of guilty. All defendants are presumed innocent and Mr. St. John intends to vigorously defend himself against this allegation.”
Austin has pleaded not guilty to the charge. He and the other defendants each face up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted. Wow…
[Image via Power Rangers Official/YouTube & Austin St. John/Instagram]