The actor who led a team of teenage superheroes in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” has been accused of helping to steal millions of dollars from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program’s pandemic relief fund.
Jason Lawrence Geiger, 47, who played the Red Ranger under the stage name Austin St. John, and 17 others were charged this week with fraud in a Texas federal court over what prosecutors described as a conspiracy to illegally transfer $3.5 million to obtain PPP loans.
Mr. Geiger and the others he allegedly worked with used a mix of real and fake companies to obtain loans from the utility, prosecutors said. According to court records, they fabricated documents and made false sales and payroll claims to obtain inflated loans, then spent the money on jewelry, precious metals and cars.
Mr. Geiger received a $225,754 loan in June 2020 for his St. John Enterprises company, which sells Power Rangers memorabilia such as $60 autographed photos and $100 personalized video messages. Rather than use the money to pay workers — the emergency aid program’s intended purpose — Mr. Geiger funneled most of the money to two of his co-defendants, prosecutors on court files said.
mr. Geiger was arraigned Wednesday on a single charge of conspiracy to commit fraud. The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
“Mr. Geiger intends to vigorously defend himself against this allegation,” David Klaudt, Mr. Geiger’s attorney, said in a written statement.
A statement posted Friday on Mr. Geiger was posted by Zachery McGinnis of Galactic Productions, an event booking service for actors, Mr. Geiger as a victim of his business partners before.
“The indictment detailed today is populated by a large number of individuals – the majority of whom Austin has no knowledge of, and has never met or had contact with,” wrote Mr McGinnis. “It is our understanding that Austin placed his faith, reputation and finances in the hands of third parties whose goals were self-centered and ultimately manipulated and violated his trust.”
mr. Geiger fought intergalactic evil in the original “Power Rangers” series which debuted in 1993 and played the Gold Ranger in a later version, “Power Rangers Zeo”. He spent 16 years as a paramedic before retiring in 2014, according to a biography on the St. John Enterprises website.
The hastily created Paycheck Protection Program deliberately ended many of the checks and safeguards normally associated with business loans – creating an opportunity for an unusually brutal theft. The Justice Department has charged hundreds of people for fraudulently taking billions of dollars and other pandemic relief programs.