A rapper who boasted in a YouTube music video about getting rich quickly by scamming a COVID-19 relief program was sentenced on Dec. 7 to six years and five months in federal prison.
Fontrell Antonio Baines, 33, also known as Nuke Bizzle, of Memphis, Tennessee, was sentenced by United States District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald, who also ordered him to pay $704,760 in restitution to the California Employment Development Department.
The sentence was imposed in connection with three criminal cases. Baines pleaded guilty on July 11 to one count of mail fraud and in a separate case, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon. He also pleaded guilty on Aug. 30 to possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute in a case transferred from Tennessee. Baines has been in federal custody since his arrest in October 2020.
From July to September 2020, Baines unlawfully exploited the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provisions of the CARES Act to obtain unemployment insurance money –more than $700,000 – to which he was not entitled, authorities said.
Baines defrauded the program to obtain unemployment benefits administered by the EDD in the names of third parties, including identity theft victims. The applications for benefits also included false statements about the work histories and residences of the applicants. Through his fraud, Baines turned the taxpayer-funded program into “his personal piggybank,” according to a sentencing memorandum filed by federal prosecutors.
The applications for benefits listed addresses in Beverly Hills and Koreatown. As a result, Baines received debit cards that EDD pre-loaded with the unemployment benefits, prosecutors said.
Baines used the identity of a Missouri man who briefly attended school – but never worked – in California to apply for unemployment benefits. In September 2020, Baines used a debit card issued in the Missouri man’s name to withdraw approximately $2,500.
Baines filed 92 fraudulent claims with EDD, resulting in losses of at least $704,760.
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