In the video, which is believed by agents to have premiered on Sept. 11, 2020, Baines held up a stack of envelopes from California’s Employment Development Department, including one addressed to an individual identified by federal agents in court filings as a victim of Baines’s identity theft, saying he was getting rich by “go[ing] to the bank with a stack of these.”
A 33-year-old Tennessee rap artist who bragged in a YouTube video about scamming a Covid unemployment insurance program was sentenced to more than six years in federal prison and ordered to return over $700,000 in ill-gotten gainz.
Fontrell Antonio Baines, aka "Nuke Bizzle," was sentenced on Wednesday by a California federal judge after pleading guilty to mail fraud and two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon. He also pleaded guilty to possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute, WaPo reports.
Mr. Bizzle filed 92 falsified Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims with the California Employment Development Department (EDD) between July and September of 2020, in a scheme which sought to extract around $1.2 million in federal funds for personal benefit. He was successful in obtaining $704,760 of that, according to court filings.
Baines used information from victims of identity theft and other third parties to fill out relief applications with false statements about applicants' work histories and residencies.
The video also featured rapper Fat Wizza and opened with a recording that states: “Your card has now been activated and is ready for use,” according to court filings, before an image closely resembling the logo of California’s Employment Development Department appears in the shot. The lyrics include: “I got rich off E.D.D.,” “10 cards swiping 10k a day,” and “You got to sell cocaine, I can just file a claim.” -WaPo
Shortly after the video was published to YouTube, a special agent at the US Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General forwarded it to a branch of the office's data science team, who identified the rapper.
In October 2020, the video's description was edited to include the disclaimer: "***THIS VIDEO WAS CREATED WITH PROPS AND WAS MADE FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES***."
In a filing submitted to the court, Baines admitted to defrauding the EDD and apologized for what he had done - blaming friends for orchestrating the scheme.
"They said they will give me money for letting mail come to the house. They would send the envelopes, and all I had to do was give them the mail when it arrived. When I found out how much money they were getting I felt played, and I started just taking the cards myself and telling them they never made it," he told the judge.