Rapper Arre-sted For Ste-aling $1.2M In Covid-19 Jobless Benefits In Order To Rich From Unemployment Fra-ud – VIDEO

A rapper who bo-asted in a music video about getting rich by fra*dulently applying for unemployment has been acc*sed of using st*len identities to obtain more than $1.2 million in joble-ss benefits, the authorities said.

Fontrell Antonio Baines, 31, who performs as Nuke Bizzle, was arr*sted on Friday and cha*ged with three fe*onies: access device fr*ud, aggra*ated identity th*ft, and interstate transportation of st*len property, federal prosec-utors said. If conv!cted, he faces up to 22 years in pr!son.

Mr. Baines, who is from Memphis and lives in Los Angeles, used st*len identities to apply for unemployment benefits through California’s Employment Development Department, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California said in a statement.

The money was distributed as part of a fe-deral program that extended unemployment benefits to self-employed workers, independent contractors, and others who found themselves without a safety net during the Covid-19 pan*emic.

The authorities said that 92 debit cards loaded with a total of more than $1.2 million in benefits were mailed to addresses that Mr. Baines had access to in Beverly Hills and the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles. Mr. Baines gained access to more than $704,000 through cash withdrawals, some of which were made in Las Vegas, the authorities said.

When the Las Vegas police arrested Mr. Baines on Sept. 23, he was in possession of eight debit cards, seven of which were not in his name, according to court documents.Mr. Baines did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday. It was not clear if he had a lawyer.

In a music video for the song “EDD” that was posted to YouTube on Sept. 11, Mr. Baines and another rapper, F-at Wizza, bo-asted about getting “rich off of E.D.D.,” an apparent reference to the Employment Development Department.The rappers br-ag in the video about their “swa-gger for E.D.D.” while holding sta-cks of E.D.D.envelopes, and about getting rich by going “to the bank with a sta-ck of these.”

A disclaimer below the video says that it was made with props “for entertainment purposes.” It is not clear when the disclaimer was added.Mr. Baines also bra-gged about the scheme in videos posted to his Instagram accounts, according to an affidavit. Fra-ud linked to identity theft accounted for about 3 percent of all unemployment cla!ms last year, according to government audits. But as unemployment has skyrocketed because of the cr!sis, so have fra*dulent cla!ms for unemployment assistance.

In September, Arizona said it had fla-gged as potentially fra-udulent more than one million of 2.4 million unemployment cla!ms — more than 40 percent. During a six-week period over the summer, Colorado found that 77 percent of new cla!ms submitted under the federal Pan*emic Unemployment Assistance program were not legitimate.Since March, Washington State has turned up nearly 87,000 cases in which cybercr!minals have st*len or bought other people’s identities and used them to file fra-udulent unemployment cla!ms. From January 2018 to June 2019, there were just 184 such cases.

This Article First Published On NYTIMES