Nuke Bizzle sentenced to over six years in prison after boasting about committing COVID-19 fraud in a music video
Nuke Bizzle sentenced to over six years in prison after boasting about committing COVID-19 fraud in a music video ➡️ Jobs for Caregiver in USA with Visa Sponsorship – Apply Now
A Los Angeles-based rapper who bragged about committing COVID-19 fraud in his music video has been sentenced to over six years in prison on Wednesday.
Fontrell Antonio Baines, 33, who’s also known as “Nuke Bizzle,” was sentenced to 77 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $704,760 in restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Baines is originally from Memphis, Tennessee.
Authorities say Baines illegally obtained over $700,000 by exploiting pandemic unemployment benefits administered by the California Employment Development Department from July 2020 to September 2020.
In Baines’ music video titled “EDD,” the rapper is seen holding up a stack of envelopes from the EDD while saying he was getting rich by “go[ing] to the bank with a stack of these,” referencing the debit cards that came in the mail.
Violent ‘bank jugging’ robberies on the rise in Southern California
The rapper submitted false applications using the names of third parties and identity theft victims along with fake work histories. He included addresses in Beverly Hills and Koreatown to which he had access, officials said.
The debit cards arrived pre-loaded with unemployment benefits obtained through 92 fraudulent claims with total losses of at least $704,760.
“Through his fraud, Baines turned the taxpayer-funded program into ‘his personal piggybank,’” said federal prosecutors.
Baines’ sentencing is combined with two separate charges besides the EDD case. In October 2020, he was caught for the illegal possession of a semi-automatic pistol with 14 rounds of ammunition found in his Hollywood Hills home.
Baines pleaded guilty on July 11 to one count of mail fraud and also pleaded guilty on August 30 to possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute in a case transferred from the Western District of Tennessee. Baines has been in federal custody since October 2020.
Anyone with information about attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or through the NCDF Web Complaint Form online.
The rapper, whose real name is Fontrell Antonio Baines, 33, agreed to plead guilty to federal fraud and firearms charges after he bragged in a YouTube music video that he got rich by ripping off the COVID-19 unemployment fund, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
He’ll face a maximum of 30 years behind bars on one count of mail fraud and one count of unlawful firearm and ammunition possession when he enters his guilty plea in Los Angeles court, the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a news release.
The Memphis rapper admitted to making 92 false claims using collaborators’ names that totaled $1.2 million through the California Employment Development Department. The not-so-covert musician then made a music video for a song called “EDD” where he held up a stack of EDD envelopes that apparently contain government debit cards.
“Unemployment so sweet. We had 1.5 land this week,” Baines raps in the video. Another voice adds, “You gotta sell cocaine, I can just file a claim.”
Baines admitted in his plea that between July and September of 2020, he obtained unemployment insurance money allocated by the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provisions of the federal CARES Act. He allegedly used addresses in Beverly Hills and Koreatown where he could then grab the debit cards, from which he’d later withdraw cash.
As part of his plea, he agreed to forfeit $57,750 that was seized by cops when he was busted in October 2020.
He was caught at a Hollywood Hills residence with a semi-automatic pistol and 14 rounds of ammo – which he was barred from possessing because of previous felony convictions, the US attorney’s office said.
Baines has been in prison since his 2020 arrest, prosecutors said.
Using third party identities, including from victims of identity theft, Baines filed relief applications with false statements about applicants’ work histories and in-state residencies. The rapper listed California addresses in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles’s Koreatown, to which he had access, allowing him to obtain debit cards preloaded with unemployment benefits by the EDD, and which he used to withdraw cash from ATMs, federal agents said in court documents.
In the video, which is believed by agents to have premiered on Sept. 11, 2020, Baines held up a stack of envelopes from California’s Employment Development Department, including one addressed to an individual identified by federal agents in court filings as a victim of Baines’s identity theft, saying he was getting rich by “go[ing] to the bank with a stack of these.”
The video also featured rapper Fat Wizza and opened with a recording that states: “Your card has now been activated and is ready for use,” according to court filings, before an image closely resembling the logo of California’s Employment Development Department appears in the shot. The lyrics include: “I got rich off E.D.D.,” “10 cards swiping 10k a day,” and “You got to sell cocaine, I can just file a claim.”
Shortly after the music video appeared on YouTube, it was forwarded by a special agent at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General to a branch chief in the office’s data science team, who was asked to identify the rapper. According to court documents, Baines was found through his social media profiles.
Federal agents said the music video’s description was edited in October 2020, around the same time special agents filed their criminal complaint against Baines, to include the disclaimer “***THIS VIDEO WAS CREATED WITH PROPS AND WAS MADE FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES***.”
In a filing submitted to the court, Baines took full responsibility for his involvement in the scheme to defraud the EDD, which he admitted to benefiting from, and apologized for what he had done. He said the scheme was originally orchestrated by his friends, who he initially allowed to use his address to receive mail — asking the judge to consider this in his sentencing. “They said they will give me money for letting mail come to the house. They would send the envelopes, and all I had to do was give them the mail when it arrived. When I found out how much money they were getting I felt played, and I started just taking the cards myself and telling them they never made it,” Baines wrote in a letter to the judge.
The funds stolen by Baines are only a small proportion of the $45.6 billion a federal watchdog estimated in September had been stolen from the nation’s unemployment insurance program during the pandemic, using the Social Security numbers of dead people and other tactics to deceive and bilk the U.S. government.
As covid-related restrictions cost people their jobs, Congress expanded existing unemployment benefits in 2020 and established new ones, including the PUA provision in the $2 trillion Cares Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump in March 2020, to meet the magnitude of the crisis then facing many households. The PUA expanded unemployment to individuals who don’t normally qualify for the benefit — self-employed, independent contractors, freelancers and gig workers. Applicants could claim the benefit by reporting their yearly income for 2019, but were not required to submit documents supporting their application.
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