Baines could face a legal maximum sentence of 22 years in federal prison.
A rapper who bragged about defrauding the government’s unemployment program in a music video has been arrested for carrying out the exact ploy he mentioned in his video, according to the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
Fontrell Antonio Baines, 31, who goes by the stage name “Nuke Bizzle”, was arrested after claiming more than $ 1.2 million in unemployment benefits and using stolen identities as part of a program to fraudulently obtaining unemployment insurance benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES).
Baines, a native of Memphis Tennessee but now residing in the Hollywood Hills of California, allegedly exploited the CARES Act’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provision which the DOJ says is designed to expand the ‘Access to unemployment benefits for self-employed workers, independent contractors and others who would not otherwise qualify.
“Baines owned and used debit cards preloaded with unemployment benefits administered by the California Employment Development Department (EDD),” the DOJ said in a statement announcing Baines’ arrest. “Debit cards have been issued in the name of third parties, including victims of identity theft. Applications for these debit cards listed addresses Baines had access to in Beverly Hills and Koreatown. “
The Justice Department said during its investigation it discovered at least 92 debit cards that contained more than $ 1.2 million in fraudulently obtained benefits and that it had accessed more than $ 704,000 of these benefits through cash withdrawals as well as through the purchase of merchandise and other services with them.
To make matters worse, Baines openly bragged about the fraudulent activity in one of his clips.
The DOJ said, “Baines bragged about his ability to defraud EDD in a clip posted to YouTube and in posts on his Instagram account, under the pseudonyms ‘nukebizzle1’ and ‘nukebizzle23’. For example, Baines appears in a clip called “EDD” in which he brags about doing “my swagger for EDD” and, wielding a stack of EDD envelopes, getting rich in “come on.”[ing] to the bank with a pile of these ”- presumably a reference to debit cards that come in the mail. A second rapper in the video sings, “You have to sell cocaine, I just filed a complaint.”
Baines was then arrested in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 23 and was found with eight debit cards, including seven in other people’s names, according to the DOJ.
Baines now faces three federal charges in the case – access device fraud, aggravated identity theft, and interstate transportation of stolen goods.
If convicted of all of these charges, Baines could face a legal maximum sentence of 22 years in federal prison.