TEXAS (WJBF) – 18 individuals in Texas are facing charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, including original red Power Ranger, Austin St. John.
The indictment was handed down by a grand jury on May 12.
The defendants, listed below, each face up to 20 years in prison, if convicted.
- Michael Lewayne Hill, a/k/a Tank, 47, of Mineral Wells
- Andrew Charles Moran, 43, of Lewisville
- Peter Keovongphet, a/k/a Lil’ Pete, 34, of Ft. Lauderdale, FL
- Ty Alan Burkhart, 34, of Frisco
- Jason Lawrence Geiger, a/k/a Austin St. John a/k/a the Red Power Ranger, 47, of McKinney
- Eric Reed Marascio, a/k/a Phoenix Marcon, 50, of Allen
- Christopher Lee McElfresh, 43, of Frisco
- Cord Dean Newman, 44, of Homosassa, FL
- Elmer Omar Ayala, 45, of Midlothian
- Gregory Fitzgerald Hatley, Jr., 38, of Allen
- Alexander Eric Cortesano, 52, of Dallas
- Arthur Atik Pongtaratik, 33, of Carrollton
- Miles Justin Urias, 34, of Richardson
- Fabian C. Hernandez, 44, of Lake Alfred, FL
- Daniel Lee Warren, 33, address unknown
- Rajaa Bensellam, 49, of Allen
- Hadi Mohammed Taffal, 50, of Allen
- Jonathon James Spencer, a/k/a Spence, 33, of Rowlett
Each individual allegedly took part in a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Part of the CARES Act, enacted during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the PPP provided small-businesses and other organizations loans to cover expenses such as payroll, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities.
The indictment states that the individuals were led by Michael Hill and Andrew Moran, in a plan to use existing businesses or create businesses to obtain PPP funding. Moran then allegedly assisted them in fabricating documentation and applications, misrepresenting information such as the nature of the business, the amount needed for payroll or the number of employees.
Investigators say the defendants did NOT use the money provided, as intended, instead paying Hill and Moran, transferring funds to their own personal accounts and making various personal purchases.
The indictment states that some defendants sent money to Jonathon Spencer to invest in foreign exchange markets.
All together, the total amount of fraudulently obtained funds through at least 16 loans is at least $3.5 million.
This case is currently being investigated by the FBI and the IRS.
Defendant Austin St. John is known through the entertainment industry as the original red ranger, Jason Lee Scott, in the television show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
St. John played the role of Jason from 1993 to 1994, making sporadic returns throughout the 90s, and most recently in 2020.