The US Department of Justice has charged former New York Jets wide receiver Josh Bellamy with taking part in a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) fraud scheme. The government alleges that he spent money meant for struggling businesses at a casino, among other fraudulent uses.
Authorities arrested the 31-year-old Bellamy on Thursday and charged him with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit both wire fraud and bank fraud, according to a Justice Department press release.
PPP Funds Spent at Casino, Jewelers
According to a criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of Florida, Bellamy conspired with others to fraudulently acquire more than $24 million in PPP loans, ultimately receiving approval for at least $17.4 million. Bellamy allegedly obtained a loan of $1,246,565 for his company, Drip Entertainment LLC, on May 28. A financial institution – identified only as “Bank 2” – wired the money into Bellamy’s personal account, which had held less than three dollars.
The complaint alleges that he spent about $62,774 of that loan at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The Seminole Tribe of Florida closed all of its casinos in the state in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but reopened them in mid-June.
The Justice Department also alleges that Bellamy spent more than $104,000 on various luxury goods from Dior, Gucci, Milano Exchange, and multiple jewelers from late May through July. Officials say Bellamy withdrew over $300,000 in funds, and also gave a co-conspirator a quarter of the approved loan on May 28.
Bellamy played eight seasons in the NFL. He signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2012 after playing college football at Butte Community College and Louisville. After spending one year with the Chiefs and another with Washington, he enjoyed a five-year stint with the Chicago Bears.
Bellamy Played Sparingly for Jets in 2019
Most recently, Bellamy played with the New York Jets in the 2019 season. On Tuesday, the Jets released Bellamy, who the team had placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list while recovering from a shoulder injury. ESPN cited a source that said the Jets weren’t aware of the arrest when they released Bellamy, though a New York Post source claimed the release was made in anticipation of the charges.
Bellamy has played 82 games in his NFL career, catching 78 passes for 1,019 yards while scoring five touchdowns. He had only caught two balls for 20 yards with the Jets, making the release a minor move from a football standpoint.
The federal government made PPP loans available as a part of the CARES Act enacted on March 29. Under the program, qualifying small businesses can receive low interest loans, which are completely forgiven if a business spends the funds on payroll costs and certain other expenses. Many gaming related businesses took advantage of PPP loans, including everything from California card rooms to small gaming taverns in Montana.