Rapper who bragged about getting rich off COVID-19 relief fraud sentenced to prison

LOS ANGELES — A rapper who bragged in a YouTube video about getting rich by committing COVID-19 fraud was sentenced to 77 months in federal prison on Wednesday.

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Fontrell Antonio Baines, 33, of Memphis, Tennessee, also known by his stage name of Nuke Bizzle, was sentenced by a federal judge in California, The Washington Post reported.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, Baines pleaded guilty to mail fraud, two other counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon and possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute. Baines was also ordered him to pay $704,760 in restitution.

Baines was charged after posting a music video to his YouTube and Instagram accounts titled “EDD,” WHBQ-TV reported.

EDD is an acronym for Employment Development Department, the television station reported.

A criminal complaint alleged that Baines was involved in a scheme to fraudulently obtain unemployment insurance benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the Los Angeles Times reported.

U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald ruled that Baines filed 92 falsified Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims with California’s EDD between July and September 2020, the Post reported. The filings were part of a scheme attempting to illegally receive $1.2 million in federal funds for his personal benefit.

Baines succeeded in obtaining $704,760 of that amount, according to the newspaper. The rapper listed California addresses in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles’ Koreatown neighborhood, allowing him to obtain debit cards preloaded with unemployment benefits by the EDD, the Post reported. He used the cards to withdraw cash from ATMs, federal agents said in court documents.

In the music video “EDD,” Baines raps about doing “my swagger for EDD” and holds up a stack of benefits envelopes and bank cards, the newspaper reported. He adds in the video that he is getting rich by “go(ing) to the bank with a stack of these.”

Baines was arrested on Sept. 23, 2020, by Las Vegas police while riding in a Cadillac Escalade, KCBS-TV reported. According to the criminal complaint, Baines was found to be in possession of eight EDD debit cards, seven of which were in the names of other people, the television station reported.

On the video for “EDD,” Baines added a disclaimer: “This video was created with props and was made for entertainment purposes,” the Times reported.


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