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Former New York Jets WR Charged for Pandemic-Related Fraud Days After Being Cut by the Team

Josh Bellamy #15 of the New York Jets makes a catch against Tre’Davious White #27 of the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium on September 08, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

NFL wide receiver Josh Bellamy, formerly of the New York Jets and Chicago Bears, was charged with several federal crimes for allegedly participating in a conspiracy that involved fraudulent applications for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

PPP was created as part of the CARES Act to provide assistance to small businesses in need during a time of unprecedented government-mandated shutdowns and economic loss.

Bellamy, 31, was released by the Jets, the team announced as recently as Tuesday. Bellamy is known as a stand-out on special teams. The Jets signed him in 2019 to a two-year, $5 million dollar deal. According to the Department of Justice, Bellamy was arrested on Thursday morning and faces charges in the Southern District of New York for alleged wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit both of those offenses.

According to the feds, Bellamy and 10 others fraudulently applied for loans totaling up to 24 million:

Bellamy is alleged to have obtained a PPP loan of $1,246,565 for his own company, Drip Entertainment LLC. Bellamy allegedly purchased over $104,000 in luxury goods using proceeds of his PPP loan, including purchases at Dior, Gucci, and jewelers. He is also alleged to have spent approximately $62,774 in PPP loan proceeds at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, and to have withdrawn over $302,000. Bellamy also allegedly sought PPP loans on behalf of his family members and close associates.

The complaint alleges that the scheme involved the preparation of at least 90 fraudulent applications, most of which were submitted. Augustin, Bellamy, and other conspirators in the scheme are alleged to have applied for PPP loans that are together worth more than $24 million dollars. Many of those loan applications were approved and funded by financial institutions, paying out at least $17.4 million.

The other defendants have each been charged with the same crimes, but in various jurisdictions around the U.S. and on different days. Some of those charges were filed as far back as June. Other charges were handed down as recently as one week ago.

The DOJ identified the other defendants by name and age as follows: Tiara Walker, 37; Damion O. Mckenzie, 38; Andre M. Clark, 46; Keyaira Bostic, 31; Phillip J. Augustin, 51; Wyleia Nashon Williams, 44; James R. Stote, 54; Ross Charno, 46; Deon D. Levy, 50; Abdul-Azeem Levy, 22.

The federal government has been quite up front about the fact that it would come down hard on people suspected of committing PPP fraud.

Bellamy had two catches in his brief and unremarkable Jets career.

[Image via Michael Owens/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.