Austin St. John, who played the original Red Power Ranger in the 1990’s Power Rangers franchise, was arrested on May 19. The actor, 47, was reportedly taken away from his home in McKinney, Texas in handcuffs following an FBI raid. Austin, according to the Department of Justice’s press release, is one of 18 people being charged with wire fraud conspiracy related the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to help struggling small business affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. HollywoodLife has reached out to the police and Austin’s rep for comment.
Allegedly, Austin and 15 others applied for small business loans with fake documents and loans that were transferred to the two alleged ringleaders of the scheme, Michael Hill and Andrew Moran. Austin is said to have collected loans worth $400,000 that he used for “personal purchase,” rather than the intended purpose. In total, the entire scheme illegally defrauded the PPP out of 16 loans worth $3.5 million, per TMZ.
“The defendants typically paid Hill and Moran, transferred money to their personal accounts, and spent the funds on various personal purchases,” the DOJ said in the press release. “In other instances, the defendants sent the fraudulently obtained funds to Jonathon Spencer for purported investment in foreign exchange markets.” The defendants, including Austin, each face up to 20 years in federal prison.
Austin was supposed to attend Des Moines Con on May 21 and 22 in Iowa, but that’s obviously changed. “Due to unforeseen personal obligations, Austin St. John is unable to attend Des Moines Con this weekend,” the event’s booking company announced on Facebook hours after the arrest. “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.”
Austin played the Red Power Ranger, Jason Lee Scott, in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. His costars included Walter Emanuel Jones, David Yost, Jason David Frank, Amy Jo Johnson, and Thuy Trang, who died in a car accident in 2001.