A former NFL wide receiver for the New York Jets was arrested and charged in Florida on Thursday for allegedly defrauding the coronavirus relief Paycheck Protection Program out of more than a million dollars and then allegedly spending the money at jewelry stores, clothing stores, and a hotel and casino, among other places.
According to the Department of Justice, Joshua Bellamy, 31, has been charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud or bank fraud after investigators allegedly uncovered that he was one of nearly a dozen participants in a $24 million dollar scheme to defraud PPP out of coronavirus relief designed for struggling businesses. Bellamy himself allegedly received $1,246,565 in PPP loans, which prosecutors claim was subsequently siphoned into a bank account with only $2.51 at the time the loan was approved.
“Early in the scheme, Phillip J. Augustin allegedly obtained a fraudulent PPP loan for his talent management company using falsified documents,” wrote the DOJ in a Thursday statement. “After submitting that application, Augustin then began to work with other co-conspirators, including Bellamy, on a scheme to submit numerous fraudulent PPP loan applications for confederate loan applicants, in order to receive kickbacks for obtaining the forgivable loans for them.”
During the month of June, Bellamy allegedly wired nearly $100,000 in PPP funds to two jewelry stores over a two-day period, and in subsequent days, spent over $5,000 in PPP at Gucci, over $1,000 at Milano Exchange, and over $1,000 at Dior, according to a criminal complaint. He also allegedly spent over $6,000 on airlines and $62,000 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
In total, the group allegedly managed to defraud the program out of $17 million using fraudulent bank statements and tax forms. The bank statement on Bellamy’s PPP application was also a “clear forgery,” according to the criminal complaint, which said that the statement’s file properties noted it had been “modified using iText” and created with “PDFFILLER.” It was also nearly identical to the bank statements used by other people who also allegedly participated in the scheme.
Bellamy also allegedly withdrew over $300,000 from his bank between late May, when the loan was approved, and late July, and later unwittingly told an undercover agent he spent the PPP loan money “buying stuff,” and also made purchases for “artists…doing videos and stuff like that,” according to the criminal complaint.
The undercover agent, posing as an associate in the scheme, contacted Bellamy in August about getting his loans forgiven and receiving more money out of the program. Initially, Bellamy allegedly told the agent he only wanted $200,000 more — but then upped it to $1.2 million — and also tried to refer his mom, brother, and girlfriend to the agent for help with more loans, said the criminal complaint.
Nine of the eleven people, including Bellamy, were from Florida, and the other two people charged in the scheme were from Ohio and appear to be related. Bellamy was expected to appear before the court on Thursday.