Ex-NFL WR gets 3 years in prison for COVID plot

TAMPA, Fla. — Former NFL player Josh Bellamy has been sentenced to three years and one month in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining over $1.2 million in COVID-19 relief funds.

Bellamy, 32, of St. Petersburg, Florida, was sentenced Friday in Tampa federal court, according to court records. He pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Besides serving prison time, Bellamy must also pay restitution.

Bellamy most recently played for the New York Jets, who released him from the reserve/physically unable to play list in Sept. 2020, just days before his arrest. The wide receiver had been placed on the list in May of that year, ending his season before it began. He signed a two-year deal worth $5 million with New York in 2019 and played in seven games before injuring a shoulder and being placed on the season-ending injured reserve list.

According to court records, Bellamy obtained a Paycheck Protection Program loan of $1.2 million for his company, Drip Entertainment LLC, using falsified documents and false information. Bellamy admitted to using the loan proceeds on personal items, such as jewelry and a stay at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Bellamy also sought loans on behalf of his family members and close associates.

Bellamy also told investigators 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, prosecutors said.

As part of the same scheme, a South Florida woman was sentenced Thursday to two years in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining a PPP loan. According to court documents, Yashica Bain, 38, of Miramar, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She obtained a PPP loan of $415,232 for her company, Microblading Brow Studio LLC, using falsified documents and false information, prosecutors said. She admitted to paying Stote more than $28,000 as a kickback for his assistance in preparing and submitting the fraudulent loan application. She was also ordered to pay restitution

Stote was charged in June 2020 with wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. His case is pending.

Bellamy has 78 career receptions for 1,019 yards and five touchdowns in his eight NFL seasons. He signed with Kansas City as an undrafted free agent out of Louisville in 2012. Bellamy spent time with San Diego and Washington before being claimed off waivers by Chicago in 2014 and played five seasons with the Bears.

The Paycheck Protection Program represents billions of dollars in forgivable small business loans for Americans struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which became federal law in March 2020.

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