DOJ: Rapper arrested for alleged $1.2M unemployment fraud, made whole song, music video about crime

News & Politics

The Department of Justice announced last week that federal authorities have arrested a rapper they claim defrauded the government of coronavirus-related unemployment benefits, then boasted about the fraud in an entire song and music video.

What are the details?

Rapper Nuke Bizzle, whose real name is Fontrell Antonio Baines, was arrested on Friday in Los Angeles for “fraudulently applying for more than $1.2 million in jobless benefits, including by using stolen identities,” according to the Justice Department.

Investigators claim Baines exploited the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provision of the CARES Act, which was intended to expand pandemic benefits to independent contractors, self-employed workers, and others.

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According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, Baines possessed and used debit cards pre-loaded with unemployment benefits administered by the California Employment Development Department (EDD). The debit cards were issued in the names of third-parties, including identity theft victims. The applications for these debit cards listed addresses to which Baines had access in Beverly Hills and Koreatown.

Evidence gathered during the investigation established that at least 92 debit cards that had been pre-loaded with more than $1.2 million in fraudulently obtained benefits were mailed to these addresses, according to the affidavit. Baines and his co-schemers allegedly accessed more than $704,000 of these benefits through cash withdrawals, including in Las Vegas, as well as purchases of merchandise and services.

Officially, Baines is charged with three felonies: access device fraud, aggravated identity theft, and interstate transportation of stolen property.

Baines was initially taken into custody in Las Vegas on Sept. 23. At the time, he had eight debit cards in his possession, according to investigations, seven of which were allegedly not in his name.

What else happened?

According to investigators, evidence of the crime includes a song and music video in which they claim Baines boasts about his alleged crimes.

From the DOJ:

The affidavit further alleges that Baines bragged about his ability to defraud the EDD in a music video posted on YouTube and in postings to his Instagram account, under the handles “nukebizzle1” and “nukebizzle23.” For example, Baines appears in a music video called “EDD” in which he boasts about doing “my swagger for EDD” and, holding up a stack of envelopes from EDD, getting rich by “go[ing] to the bank with a stack of these” – presumably a reference to the debit cards that come in the mail. A second rapper in the video intones, “You gotta sell cocaine, I just file a claim….”

[embedded content]
Nuke Bizzle Ft. Fat Wizza – EDD (Official Music Video)

www.youtube.com

A disclaimer on the video now reads, “THIS VIDEO WAS CREATED WITH PROPS AND WAS MADE FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES.”

Baines faces a maximum of 22 years in prison if convicted of all three charges.

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