Joshua Bellamy, Ex-Jet, Is Sentenced to 3 Years in Covid-19 Aid Scheme

A former wide receiver for the New York Jets who fraudulently obtained more than $1.2 million in Covid-19 relief money and spent tens of thousands of dollars of that on luxury items has been sentenced to more than three years in prison, federal prosecutors said.

The former N.F.L. player, Joshua J. Bellamy, 32, of St. Petersburg, Fla., pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida say Mr. Bellamy obtained a Paycheck Protection Program loan of $1.2 million for his company, Drip Entertainment L.L.C., by using false information. They say he used the loan’s proceeds on personal items, including more than $104,000 in luxury goods from Dior, Gucci and other merchants, and on $63,000 in purchases at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla.

At a hearing in federal court in Fort Lauderdale on Friday, Mr. Bellamy was sentenced to 37 months in prison on the conspiracy charge and also ordered to serve three years of supervised release and pay $1.2 million in restitution and $1.2 million in forfeiture, according to a statement from federal prosecutors.

Phone and email messages left for Mr. Bellamy’s lawyer on Monday night seeking comment were not immediately returned.

A federal complaint against Mr. Bellamy detailed text messages, bank records and statements that prosecutors said he made during an August 2020 phone call with an undercover agent posing as an associate of a conspirator in the scheme.

During the call, the agent claimed to be able to help Mr. Bellamy have his loan forgiven and to obtain a second loan.

When the agent asked Mr. Bellamy how he had spent his loan, Mr. Bellany replied that he was wiring money, withdrawing money and “buying stuff” for his artists who were “doing videos and stuff like that,” the complaint states.

At the end of the call, Mr. Bellamy said he had additional people to refer for loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, including his girlfriend, his mother and his brother, prosecutors said.

Mr. Bellamy signed with the Jets in 2019 but was sidelined with a shoulder injury in March 2020 after playing in seven games. He was cut from the team in September 2020, the same week he was arrested on the charges, according to a Jets spokesman. He had played for the Chicago Bears from 2014 to 2018.

The program under which Mr. Bellamy obtained a loan for his company was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The federal government, wanting to get the relief money out fast, waived much of the vetting that lenders traditionally do on business loans, but the absence of those standards meant that fraud was highly likely.

An academic paper from August by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin estimated that about 1.8 million of the program’s 11.8 million loans — more than 15 percent — totaling $76 billion had at least one indication of potential fraud.

Related Articles

Back to top button