A beloved 1990s star was arrested this week in connection with an alleged COVID-19 fraud scheme.
Austin St. John, who starred as the Red Ranger Jason Lee Scott in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” was arrested Thursday in connection with a scheme that allegedly defrauded some $3.5 million in COVID-19 related funds from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. St. John, whose real name is Jason Lawrence Geiger, was one of 18 individuals arrested as part of the suspected fraud ring.
According to TMZ, approximately 15 FBI agents arrived at St. John’s home in McKinney, Texas, at around 7 o’clock Thursday morning. The agents entered St. John’s home, brandishing rifles, and walked out with the 47-year-old actor in handcuffs. The New York Post reported that the fraud ring was allegedly spearheaded by Michael Lewayne “Tank” Hill and Andrew Charles Moran. A grand jury in the federal Eastern District of Texas indicted the 18 individuals on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
In a statement, the Department of Justice named St. John as one of the defendants ordered by the grand jury to appear before a magistrate judge, complete with his iconic role:
Jason Lawrence Geiger, a/k/a Austin St. John a/k/a the Red Power Ranger, 47, of McKinney
“[The] defendants… are alleged to have executed a scheme to defraud lenders and the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP),” The DOJ said. “Hill is alleged to have recruited co-conspirators to use an existing business or create a business to submit applications to obtain PPP funding. 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. Based on these material misrepresentations, the SBA and other financial institutions approved and issued loans to the defendants. Once in receipt of the fraudulently obtained funds, the defendants 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. Instead, the defendants typically paid Hill and Moran, transferred money to their personal accounts, and spent the funds on various personal purchases. In other instances, the defendants sent the fraudulently obtained funds to [defendant] Jonathon Spencer for purported investment in foreign exchange markets. In total, the defendants are alleged to have fraudulently obtained at least 16 loans and at least $3.5 million.”
If convicted, each of the 18 individuals faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
St. John rose to fame for his role as Jason, the Red Power Ranger and leader of the titular “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” beginning in 1993. He held the role for two seasons of the children’s action show, as well as a feature-length movie based on the series, which premiered in theaters in 1995. St. John reprised the role of Jason in the sequel series, “Power Rangers Zeo,” and has made appearances in several episodes of subsequent series in the Power Rangers franchise.
St. John is not the first Red Ranger to be fitted for an orange jumpsuit. Ricardo Medina, Jr., who played Red Ranger Cole Evans in “Power Rangers Wild Force,” was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for stabbing his roommate with a sword. Medina was sentenced to 6 years in prison, but has since been released.