Rapper who fraudulently claimed COVID-19 unemployment benefits to plead guilty

A Los Angeles-based rapper, who bragged about getting rich from unemployment benefits during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in song, was expected to plead guilty to federal fraud, the Justice Department said in a press release on Wednesday.

Fontrell Antonio Baines, nicknamed “Nuke Bizzle,” admitted to making 92 fraudulent claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that resulted in losses of more than $700,000 and attempted losses of about $1.25 million, according to the department. .

Baines could face up to 20 years in prison for one count of mail fraud. He is also expected to plead guilty to one count of illegal possession of a firearm after admitting to having a semiautomatic pistol and 14 ammunition while convicted of felony. This can add up to 10 years to his sentence.

In September 2020, Baines released a song on Spotify called “EDD,” a direct reference to the California Employment Development Department, which administers the state’s unemployment benefits.

“EDD made me rich/I don’t get licks anymore because of EDD,” Baines rapped in the song.

Federal prosecutors quickly took notice and Las Vegas police arrested Baines on Sept. 23.

At the time, he was in possession of “eight debit cards, seven of which were in the name of other persons,” prosecutors said.

The debit cards were issued in the name of third parties, including the identity of the victims of theft, authorities said. The applications for the cards listed the addresses Baines had access to in Beverley Hills and Koreatown, prosecutors said.

Unemployment fraud skyrocketed during the pandemic after criminals found a ripe target in federal government aid programs that sent out more than $5 trillion to help the hardest-hit Americans and businesses.

In California, state officials said they may have sent more than $20 billion in back unemployment benefits to criminals, The Washington Post reported.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Inspector General testified at a congressional hearing in March that the government may have overpaid at least $163 billion.

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