Rapper who bragged about Covid relief fraud sentenced to over 6 years


LOS ANGELES — A Tennessee rapper who boasted about committing Covid-19 relief fraud in a music video was sentenced to over six years in prison Wednesday, prosecutors said.

The 77-month sentence also included guilty pleas in separate cases to gun and drug counts, the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles said.

Fontrell Antonio Baines, of Memphis, who goes by “Nuke Bizzle,” stole more than $700,000 in Covid-19 unemployment benefits in a scheme in which other people’s names or stolen identities were used, prosecutors said.

Baines, 33, bragged about the fraud in videos on YouTube and Instagram, according to court documents. The fraud went from at least July to September 2020.

A song posted online in September 2020 was titled “EDD,” which is the name of California’s Employment Development Department in charge of unemployment payments.

The video, cited by prosecutors in court documents, features handfuls of $100 bills and people checking the mail and typing on laptops. At one point another performer raps, “You gotta sell cocaine, I can just file a claim.”

Federal public defenders representing Baines declined to comment Wednesday.

In addition to the Covid fraud case, Baines pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon and possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute, the U.S. attorney’s office for Central California said.

Baines said in a letter to the judge that he has remorse. “Everyday that I think about what I did I regret my actions and the impact my crime had on others,” he wrote.

In addition to the prison sentence, Baines was also ordered to pay $704,760 in restitution.

Congress approved massive financial resources to help people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which shut down large parts of the economy.

The U.S. Labor Department’s inspector general’s office has estimated that $872.5 billion in pandemic unemployment insurance funding — and at least $163 billion in pandemic unemployment insurance benefits — could have been paid improperly, some of it through fraud.

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