A former NFL wide receiver who illegally got over $1 million in pandemic relief money meant to help struggling businesses was sentenced to a little more than three years in prison Friday, prosecutors said.
Joshua Bellamy, who spent most of his football career with the Chicago Bears but most recently played for the New York Jets, was among 11 people charged in a more than $17 million fraud scheme last year.
Bellamy, 32, got a $1.2 million loan from the Paycheck Protection Program for his company, some of which he spent on himself, including on jewelry and at a casino. He also referred other people to the scheme, court documents state.
Bellamy pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
He was sentenced Friday to 37 months in prison and will have to repay the $1,246,565, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Bellamy's attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday evening.
Bellamy is free on bond and is scheduled to report to prison by Feb. 15, according to court documents.
The overall group charged last September filed dozens of falsified loan applications seeking more than $24 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans, prosecutors have said. More than $17 million was approved.
Those forgivable loans were part of a massive relief effort passed by Congress last year designed to support struggling businesses in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bellamy worked with other people who submitted false or forged documents to get a loan for Bellamy’s company, Drip Entertainment, both his attorneys and prosecutors said in court documents.
The loan application relied on lies about payroll and the number of employees he retained, documents state.
Bellamy also paid a more than $300,000 kickback to another person, who is also charged, for his help in preparing and submitting the loan application with the false claims, he admitted in court documents.
Prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum that while others played the leading roles in the overall scheme, Bellamy "ultimately is the person who said yes to the fraud that his co-conspirators were offering."
Bellamy played five seasons with the Chicago Bears, and a single season with the New York Jets in 2019. He had only two catches for New York that year and was cut in September 2020, just days before the criminal charges were announced.