Baines could face a statutory 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 on federal charges of carrying out the exact scheme he mentioned in his video, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
Fontrell Antonio Baines, 31, who goes by the stage name “Nuke Bizzle” was arrested after applying for more than $1.2 million in jobless benefits and using stolen identities in a scheme to fraudulently obtain unemployment insurance benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Baines, originally from Memphis Tennessee but who now resides in the Hollywood Hills in California, was allegedly exploiting the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provision of the CARES Act which the DOJ says is designed to expand access to unemployment benefits to self-employed workers, independent contractors, and others who would not otherwise be eligible.
“Baines possessed and used debit cards pre-loaded with unemployment benefits administered by the California Employment Development Department (EDD),” the DOJ said in a statement announcing Baines’ arrest. “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.”
The DOJ says that during their investigation they discovered at least 92 debit cards that had more than $1.2 million in fraudulently obtained benefits and that he had accessed more than $704,000 of those benefits through cash withdrawal as well purchasing merchandise and other services with them.
To make matters worse, Baines openly bragged about the fraudulent activity in one of his music videos.
Said the DOJ: “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.”
Baines was subsequently arrested in Las Vegas Nevada on Sept. 23 and was found with eight debit cards, seven of which were in the names of other persons, according to the DOJ.
Baines now faces three federal charges in the case — access device fraud, aggravated identity theft, and interstate transportation of stolen property.
If convicted of all of these charges, Baines would face a statutory maximum sentence of 22 years in federal prison.