(WJBF) — Austin St. John, the original Red Power Ranger, is among 18 people in Texas facing charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
The indictment was handed down by a grand jury on May 12.
St. John is known through the entertainment industry as Jason Lee Scott, the original red Power Ranger, in the television show “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”
St. John and the other individuals in the indictment are each accused of taking part in a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.
As part of the CARES Act, enacted during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the PPP provided small businesses and other organizations loans to cover expenses such as payroll, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities.
The indictment states that the individuals were led by Michael Hill and Andrew Moran in a plan to use existing businesses or create businesses to obtain PPP funding. Moran is accused of then assisting them in fabricating documentation and applications, misrepresenting information such as the nature of the business, the amount needed for payroll or the number of employees.
Investigators said the defendants did not use the money provided as intended and instead paid Hill and Moran, transferring funds to their own personal accounts and making various personal purchases.
The indictment states that some defendants sent money to Jonathon Spencer to invest in foreign exchange markets.
Altogether, the total amount of fraudulently obtained funds through at least 16 loans amounted to at least $3.5 million.
The defendants, listed below, each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
- Michael Lewayne Hill, aka Tank, 47, of Mineral Wells, Texas
- Andrew Charles Moran, 43, of Lewisville, Texas
- Peter Keovongphet, aka Lil’ Pete, 34, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
- Ty Alan Burkhart, 34, of Frisco, Texas
- Jason Lawrence Geiger, aka Austin St. John aka the Red Power Ranger, 47, of McKinney, Texas
- Eric Reed Marascio, aka Phoenix Marcon, 50, of Allen, Texas
- Christopher Lee McElfresh, 43, of Frisco, Texas
- Cord Dean Newman, 44, of Homosassa, Florida
- Elmer Omar Ayala, 45, of Midlothian, Texas
- Gregory Fitzgerald Hatley, Jr., 38, of Allen, Texas
- Alexander Eric Cortesano, 52, of Dallas, Texas
- Arthur Atik Pongtaratik, 33, of Carrollton, Texas
- Miles Justin Urias, 34, of Richardson, Texas
- Fabian C. Hernandez, 44, of Lake Alfred, Florida
- Daniel Lee Warren, 33, address unknown
- Rajaa Bensellam, 49, of Allen, Texas
- Hadi Mohammed Taffal, 50, of Allen, Texas
- Jonathon James Spencer, aka Spence, 33, of Rowlett, Texas
This case is currently being investigated by the FBI and the IRS.
St. John played the role of Jason from 1993 to 1994, making sporadic returns throughout the 90s and most recently in 2020.