Federal prosecutors in Miami have announced charges against a National Football League (NFL) player for his alleged involvement in a fraud scheme that sought more than $24 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans meant to help businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Joshua J. Bellamy, 31, of St. Petersburg was charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. It is unclear if he has acquired the services of an attorney.
According to the criminal complaint, the accused allegedly conspired with others to prepare at least 90 fraudulent applications seeking PPP loans. They submitted nearly identical doctored bank statements and payroll tax forms in the applications for multiple companies, the complaint claims. In total, he and his co-conspirators applied for more than $24 million in PPP loans. At least 42 of those applications were approved and funded, paying out an estimated $17.4 million, sources indicate.
The PPP is a federal COVID-19 relief program authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was enacted by Congress in March 2020. The loans, which are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA), are earmarked for emergency financial assistance to American businesses burdened with the economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic. Congress authorized over $650 billion in loans for small businesses to use for employee payroll, rent, utilities, and interest on mortgages.
In addition to the 90 applications he allegedly conspired to prepare, the NFL player also purportedly applied for a PPP loan for his own company, Drip Entertainment, LLC. The loan was approved and funded, and he allegedly received $1,246,565. The complaint claims he used the funds to purchase over $104,000 worth of luxury goods, including purchases at Gucci, Dior, and luxury jewelers. He also allegedly spent $62,774 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, and withdrew over $302,000 for unknown uses.
The athlete from St. Petersburg plays for the New York Jets after joining the team during the last season. As of September 10, he is no longer listed on the team’s current roster, but is rather on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. It is not clear whether the Jets have released a public statement on the incident.
Ten other people have been caught and charged for their involvement in the same fraud scheme, according to the complaint. Allegations of misuse of PPP funds aren’t unique. Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced similar charges against almost 60 people for attempting to steal more than $175 million from the PPP. Many of the charged individuals are accused of using COVID-19 relief funds to buy luxury items for themselves.
Miami business owners suspected of committing fraud related to federal COVID-19 relief programs should immediately consult an experienced fraud defense attorney. An attorney can examine the evidence, conduct an independent investigation, and determine the best course of action to fight the charge.
Miami Fraud Defense Attorney
Are you accused of committing fraud involving federal COVID-19 relief programs in South Florida? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation with one of Miami’s most experienced fraud defense attorneys.