Hail Mary Pass

Close-up Of A Businessperson's Hand Giving Cheque To Colleague At Workplace

The median wage for all National Football League (NFL) players is $860,000. Evidently that was not enough for a former player, Joshua J. Bellamy, 32 of St. Petersburg, Fla. (Perhaps he didn’t put enough away in savings while he was a wide receiver for the Chicago Bears and the New York Jets so he turned to fraud as a source of extra income.) Bellamy took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic (like so many other fraudsters) and obtained a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan worth more than $1.2 million that he did not deserve.

Bellamy obtained the PPP loan, which was guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA), for his company, Drip Entertainment LLC. He received $1,246,565 by submitting false information. (Just an FYI, nearly 15 percent of the total amount of PPP loans disbursed is thought to be fraudulent. That’s $76 billion.)

So, what did Bellamy spend more than $1 million on? (I thought you’d never ask.) That stolen cash bought $104,000 in luxury goods from Dior, Gucci, and other merchants. He also spent $63,000 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla.

Bellamy not only sought PPP loans for himself, but also for family members and close associates. (What a thoughtful guy.) He even paid a $311,000 kickback to an alleged co-conspirator, James Stote, for helping him to prepare the fake loan application. (How generous he was with the government’s money.)

Bellamy pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison and ordered to serve three years of supervised release. And that’s not all. He owes $1,246,565 in restitution and the same amount in forfeiture. (I’m sure Bellamy hoped that the court would throw a Hail Mary pass that would help him avoid prison time. But no such luck. It looks like he dropped the ball.)

The man Bellamy paid a kickback to has been charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. His case is pending.

With $76 billion in fraudulent PPP loans doled out since the pandemic began, you can expect a lot more news on this type of crime in the near future. If you have any information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19, report it to the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Former NFL Player Sentenced to More Than Three Years in Prison for COVID-19 Relief Fraud,” dated December 10, 2021.

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.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.