Former NFL Player Sentenced to More Than Three Years in Prison for COVID-19 Relief Fraud
Florida Woman Also Sentenced in Same Scheme
A former National Football League (NFL) player was sentenced today to 37 months in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining over $1.2 million through a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
According to court documents, Joshua J. Bellamy, 32, of St. Petersburg, Florida, a former NFL player, pleaded guilty on June 9 in the Southern District of Florida to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. As part of the fraud scheme, Bellamy obtained a PPP loan of $1,246,565 for his company, Drip Entertainment LLC, using falsified documents and false information. Bellamy admitted to using the PPP loan proceeds on personal items, such as jewelry, and a stay at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Bellamy also sought PPP loans on behalf of his family members and close associates. Bellamy further admitted that he paid more than $311,000 to an alleged co-conspirator, James Stote, as a kickback for his assistance in preparing and submitting the fraudulent loan application. In addition to his prison sentence, Bellamy was ordered to serve three years of supervised released and pay $1,246,565 in restitution and $1,246,565 in forfeiture.
In addition, a Florida woman was sentenced on Dec. 9 to two years in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining a PPP loan as part of this criminal scheme. According to court documents, Yashica Bain, 38, of Miramar, Florida, pleaded guilty on Sept. 30 in the Southern District of Florida to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. As part of the fraud scheme, Bain obtained a PPP loan of $415,232 for her company, Microblading Brow Studio LLC, using falsified documents and false information. Bain used the PPP loan proceeds to enrich herself and others who never worked for her company. She falsely described those payments as “payroll” and “wages” to perpetrate this fraud. Bain admitted that she paid more than $28,000 to Stote as a kickback for his assistance in preparing and submitting the fraudulent loan application. In addition to her prison sentence, Bain was ordered to serve three years of supervised released and pay $415,232 in restitution and $415,232 in forfeiture.
Stote was charged by complaint on June 24, 2020, with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. His case remains pending.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez of the Southern District of Florida; Special Agent in Charge Michael J. De Palma of the IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Miami Field Office; Acting Assistant Director Jay Greenberg of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division; Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite of the SBA’s Office of Inspector General (SBA-OIG) Eastern Region made the announcement.
IRS-CI, the FBI, and SBA-OIG investigated the cases.
Trial Attorney Philip Trout of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Turken and Yisel Valdes of the Southern District of Florida prosecuted the cases.
The Fraud Section leads the Criminal Division’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the PPP. Since the inception of the CARES Act, the Fraud Section has prosecuted over 150 defendants in more than 95 criminal cases and has seized over $75 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds. More information can be found at https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/ppp-fraud.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
A complaint is merely an allegation, and Stote is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.