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Texas actor who played Red Power Ranger among 19 charged in COVID loan fraud scheme

Jason Lawrence Geiger, a.k.a Austin St. John, played the original red Power Ranger in the 1990s.
Credit: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP
Fans line up at the Power Morphicon Convention 2012 to get autographs from the cast of "Power Rangers Super Samurai" on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012 in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision for Saban Brands/AP Images)

PLANO, Texas — Jason Lawrence Geiger, a.k.a. Austin St. John, the Texas actor known for playing the Red Power Ranger in the 1990s, is one of 19 people charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. 

A federal indictment lists Geiger, a McKinney native, as one of 18 people being charged in a scheme to fraudulently obtain funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

The Paycheck Protection Program started in March 2020 when former President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act into law, which was designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qualifying small businesses and other organizations were able to apply for PPP loans to help cover costs like payroll, interest on mortgage rates, rent and utilities.

According to the indictment, the scheme was led by Michael Hill, of Mineral Wells, and Andrew Moran, of Lewisville. The 18 defendants charged are alleged to have fraudulently obtained at least 16 loans totaling at least $3.5 million.

“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,” according to a press release from the U.S. Eastern District of Texas attorney’s office.

According to the DOJ, the following 18 defendants have either been arrested or summoned for an appearance before a federal magistrate judge: 

  • Michael Lewayne Hill, a.k.a "Tank," 47, of Mineral Wells, Texas
  • Andrew Charles Moran, 43, of Lewisville, Texas
  • Peter Keovongphet, a.k.a "Lil’ Pete," 34, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
  • Ty Alan Burkhart, 34, of Frisco, Texas
  • Jason Lawrence Geiger, a.k.a Austin St. John, a.k.a the Red Power Ranger, 47, of McKinney, Texas
  • Eric Reed Marascio, a.k.a "Phoenix Marcon," 50, of Allen, Texas
  • Christopher Lee McElfresh, 43, of Frisco, Texas
  • Cord Dean Newman, 44, of Homosassa, Fla.
  • 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, Fla.
  • Daniel Lee Warren, 33, address unknown
  • Rajaa Bensellam, 49, of Allen, Texas
  • Hadi Mohammed Taffal, 50, of Allen, Texas
  • Jonathon James Spencer, a.k.a "Spence," 33, of Rowlett, Texas  

Geiger played the original red Power Ranger in the 1990s. Geiger was scheduled to attend Des Moines Con over the weekend, but on May 18, the event posted to its Facebook

"Due to unforeseen personal obligations, Austin St. John is unable to attend Des Moines Con this weekend. He sends his apologies and love to all those that were looking forward to meeting him. Austin plans to be here to meet all of his fans in 2023."

In a statement released on Geiger's Twitter, Geiger "put his faith, reputation, and finances in the hands of third-parties whose goals were self-centered and ultimately manipulated and betrayed his trust."

According to the indictment, each of the defendants faces up to 20 years in federal prison if they’re convicted. 

    

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