NFL Season Kicks Off With Former Jet Wide Receiver's Alleged PPP Fraud Football free agent Josh Bellamy is among those accused of using a share of his small-business loan on personal indulgence.
As we have covered over the past several months, the federal government's Paycheck Protection Progam (PPP) — a core component of the Trump administration's CARES Act that launched in early April and expired on August 8 — has been a mixed bag. It distributed billions in small-business loans that have helped thousands of companies rehire employees and cut the national unemployment rates back down by nearly half from a May peak of 14.7 percent. But it also disproportionately advantaged businesses that were already cozy with big banks and had the resources to exploit PPP's flexibility (e.g. large hotel chains such as Omni divvying up millions per individual location). Plus, concerns over loan forgiveness contributed to $130 billion of its total kitty being left unclaimed. And that's without getting into the massive franchises (looking at you, Starbucks) that wet their beak, only to return the millions reaped after media shaming (see "Related" link below).
Most disconcerting is the steady drumbeat of headlines outing outright PPP fraudsters. Dozens of individuals and entities have been flagged by the Department of Justice for deliberately manipulating PPP guidelines for their own ends, misappropriating the allocated funds, or both. But yesterday, mere hours before the 2020-'21 NFL season was set to kick-off, the DOJ made a conspicuously timed splash by announcing that free-agent wide receiver Josh Bellamy (most recently of the New York Jets) was busted as part of a multi-party conspiracy to defraud the PPP program out of $24 million.
According to the Department's press release, Bellamy, talent manager Phillip J. Augustin and several others were complicit in submitting phony applications on behalf of enterprises including Bellamy's Drip Entertainment LLC, as well as soliciting kickbacks for their efforts. Bellamy reportedly spent nearly $200,000 of his more than $1.2 million haul on luxury goods and an outing at a Hard Rock Casino and Hotel located in Florida. The statement does not elaborate on whether Bellamy maintained social distancing while allegedly gambling the government's money away.
Bellamy, 31, faces charges of wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. We will update this story as more information is made available.