Former NFL player Bellamy charged with virus relief fraud
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Former NFL player Josh Bellamy was arrested and charged Thursday with participating in a scheme to file fraudulent applications for more than $24 million in coronavirus relief funds, authorities said.
Bellamy, 31, of St. Petersburg, is charged with wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, according to court records. At a hearing Thursday afternoon in Tampa federal court, Bellamy was ordered released on $250,000 bond. Bellamy’s case will be prosecuted in Fort Lauderdale federal court.
Bellamy’s attorney, Diego Weiner, said it’s common for professional athletes to be taken advantage of by people who are supposed to be representing their best interests, and he hopes the public will give Bellamy the benefit of the doubt.
Bellamy most recently played for the New York Jets, who released him from the reserve/physically unable to play list on Tuesday. The wide receiver had been placed on the list in May, ending his season before it began. He signed a two-year deal worth $5 million with New York in 2019 and played in seven games before injuring a shoulder and being placed on the season-ending injured reserve list.
According to a criminal complaint, the scheme began with Phillip Augustin, 51, of Coral Springs, using falsified documents to obtain money for his talent management company. Augustin then began to work with Bellamy and others on a scheme to submit numerous fraudulent loan applications for other applicants in order to receive kickbacks for obtaining the forgivable loans, prosecutors said.
Bellamy received more than $1.2 million for his own company, Drip Entertainment LLC, prosecutors said. He purchased over $104,000 in luxury goods and spent about $62,774 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, according to the complaint. It adds Bellamy also allegedly sought loans for family members and close associates.
Besides Bellamy and Augustin, sevens others from South Florida and two people from northeastern Ohio have been charged in the scheme.
Bellamy has 78 career receptions for 1,019 yards and five touchdowns in his eight NFL seasons. He signed with Kansas City as an undrafted free agent out of Louisville in 2012. Bellamy spent time with San Diego and Washington before being claimed off waivers by Chicago in 2014 and played five seasons with the Bears.
The Paycheck Protection Program represents billions of dollars in forgivable small business loans for Americans struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which became federal law in March.