NFL player charged in $24M pandemic fraud scheme

Former New York Jets and Chicago Bears wide receiver Josh Bellamy was charged with federal wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy Thursday for allegedly participating in a scheme involving $24 million in fraudulent Payroll Protection Program loan applications. 

According to the Justice Department, Bellamy participated in seeking PPP loans on behalf of himself, family and close associates. Among 90 fraudulently prepared applications, most were submitted, securing payouts of at least $17.4 million, the department said. 

Bellamy allegedly secured more than $1.2 million for his company, Drip Entertainment LLC, and spent $104,000 of its proceeds on luxury goods from Dior and Gucci. Another $62,774 was allegedly spent at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

PPP loans are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and offer emergency assistance in the form of forgivable loans for pandemic-impacted businesses.

Bellamy was arrested Thursday and was scheduled to appear the same day before a judge in the Southern District of Florida.

The Justice Department in announcing the charges said a co-conspirator, Phillip J. Augustin, used his talent management company to file falsified documents with the PPP program, then later incorporated Bellamy into a plot to submit “numerous” fraudulent PPP loan applications on behalf of others. Bellamy is among 10 co-conspirators charged who allegedly crafted the scheme to receive kickbacks for obtaining the forgivable loans, according to the DOJ’s press release.

According to Florida state records, Bellamy’s St. Petersberg company originally registered as an LLC in 2018 and reinstated its business license September 9 of this year.

Penalties for convictions for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and carry fines up to $250,000.

On September 8, the New York Jets announced it had released Bellamy, making him a free agent.

Yahoo Finance