Recently released New York Jets player Josh Bellamy was charged in connection to an alleged $24 million scheme to defraud the COVID-19 relief program, according to a criminal complaint.
Bellamy was charged Wednesday with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, the complaint filed in the Southern District of Florida read. He allegedly obtained a fraudulent loan through the Paycheck Protection Program for his company, Drip Entertainment, conspiring with another individual to provide fake bank statements and payroll tax forms in order to make his company seem bigger than it was.
In one instance, authorities said nearly identical versions of the same fabricated bank statements were reused in different PPP applications, with only minor changes. In total, Bellamy and the conspirators planned or prepared at least 90 fraudulent applications, submitting most of them, for loans of more than $24 million, according to the Department of Justice.
At least 42 of the loans were approved for funding of about $17.4 million, complaint stated, with the individual applications for several hundred thousand dollars each — the largest around $1.24 million. Bellamy used that money to purchase luxury items at shops like Dior, Gucci and jewelers, as well dropping more than $62,000 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. He also withdrew more than $302,000 from the account.
Bellamy’s co-conspirator, Phillip Augustin, received a kickback of around 25 percent for some of the loans, the court documents said. Investigators identified nearly $2.4 million in transfers to Augustin, and found that Bellamy had communicated with him directly over text, saying he was "sending wire now" after the co-conspirator asked for approximately $312,000.
The alleged scheme started in May and lasted into early August. On August 3, Bellamy was on the phone with an undercover agent who asked how many employees he had, to which the wide receiver replied "I got as many employees as I want." After at first telling the undercover agent to list his company as having 15 employees, Bellamy told him to put down 50 in order to apply for a $1.2 million loan.
He also told the undercover agent he had other people he wanted to refer, including his girlfriend, mom and brother. It was not immediately clear if Bellamy had hired an attorney, and he was set to appear before a Florida judge on Thursday. Ten other people were allegedly involved in the scheme and face charges, the DOJ said.
Bellamy was released from the team’s injured reserve/physically unable to perform list on Tuesday. He had signed a two-year, $5 million deal in 2019, and played in seven games with the Jets before injury ended his season, after making just two catches for 20 yards. Before joining Gang Green, Bellamy played with the Chicago Bears, where he saw more playing time but was perhaps more notable for getting fined for a chop block on Rams lineman Aaron Donald and getting ejected for fighting with 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman.