Austin St. John, better known as the original Red Ranger in the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" series, has been arrested with 17 others in an alleged $3.5 million fraud scheme.
St. John, whose real name is Jason Lawrence Geiger, was indicted on Thursday, May 12, and is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
The scheme against the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program was led by Michael Hill and Andrew Moran, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas said in a May 18 news release. Hill recruited business owners to submit PPP loan applications, and Moran helped fabricate documentation for the funding, federal officials say.
The Paycheck Protection Program was instituted during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide financial assistance to businesses adversely affected during the pandemic.
The 18 defendants, including St. John, fraudulently obtained the $3.5 million through at least 16 loans, officials said. They are accused of not using the money for its intended purposes, such as paying their employee salaries.
"Instead, the defendants typically paid Hill and Moran, transferred money to their personal accounts, and spent the funds on various personal purchases," according to a Department of Justice news release.
Court documents show St. John obtained a PPP loan for $225,754 for St. John Enterprises. He sent $22,529 to Hill or Moran and invested $170,000.
St. John Enterprises sells non-licensed "Power Ranger" toys and collectibles. It is operated by St. John, who lives in McKinney, Texas.
The former Red Ranger spent 16 years as a paramedic before he retired in 2014, according to a biography on his website. Since then, he has remained a fixture at comic book conventions throughout the United States.
He was scheduled to participate in the Des Moines Con in Iowa on May 21 and 22, but canceled "due to unforeseen personal obligations."
"He sends his apologies and love to all those that were looking forward to meeting him," Galactic Productions said. "Austin plans to be here to meet all of his fans in 2023."