Over the course of its nearly 30-year existence, the Power Rangers franchise has recruited the talents of countless actors. Many of these stars have become somewhat iconic in the eyes of those who have faithfully followed the long-running TV series. Following their stints within the show, many of the actors have gone on to different acting endeavors, while others have experienced legal issues (with one having even been sentenced for killing someone). Now, Austin St. John, one of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers stars, has been arrested following an FBI raid.
Austin St. John (whose legal name is Jason Lawrence Geiger) was arrested this past Thursday at his home in McKinney, Texas. The 47-year-old actor is allegedly one of 18 people who sought to defraud the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, per a federal indictment from the Eastern District of Texas U.S. Attorney's office. The purpose of said program is to provide financial relief for small businesses that have suffered economic hardships amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The indictment alleges that under the leadership of two defendants, Michael Hill and Andrew Moran, the group filled out application paperwork for the program and apparently fabricated additional documentation before submitting them. After gaining acceptance through misinterpreted materials, the defendants reportedly gained the funds, which were assumed to be used for business expenses like covering fixed debt or continuing healthcare benefits for employees. It’s stated that in actuality, the individuals wired the fraudulently obtained money to their personal accounts before using them for personal purchases. They’re also said to have each paid a share to Hill and Moran.
Overall, the group reportedly managed to fraudulently receive 16 loans from the program, amounting to a total sum of $3.5 million. If found guilty, the defendants face up to 20 years in federal prison. As of this writing, Austin St. John has not commented on the situation.
The star became a staple in children’s television when Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (which is streamable with a Netflix subscription) premiered on Fox Kids in 1993. With his role of red ranger Jason Lee Scott (who was recast in the 2017 film), Austin St. John holds the distinct honor of playing the first-ever leader in a Power Rangers show. St. John would eventually leave the show in 1994 but would return to the franchise in 1996 for its second incarnation, Zeo. The following year, he appeared as the character again in the theatrical film, Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie. Since then, he’s made guest appearances as Jason on 2002’s Wild Force and more recently in 2020’s Beast Morphers.
Over the past week, rumors have circulated that Hasbro was courting original MMPR stars to return for the franchise’s 30th Anniversary special. One of those said to be in talks to reprise their role is former blue ranger actor David Yost (who’s said he was driven off the original show because he’s gay). This is all speculation at this point though, if the studio is courting the veteran actors, it’s unclear as to whether the OG red ranger star would still be in contention due to his legal troubles.
As of right now, the FBI is continuing its investigation into the matter of alleged fraud. Updates on the case will likely arrive as court dates are established for Austin St. John and the other defendants.
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