A Tennessee rapper is facing up to 22 years in prison after allegedly defrauding the U.S. government’s COVID-19 relief fund for $1.2 million, then bragging about it in his music video.
Fontrell Antonio Baines, 31, was arrested in California on Friday on three counts of access device fraud, aggravated identity theft and interstate transportation of stolen property, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Baines allegedly defrauded the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in California, where he was living in the Hollywood Hills. He then rapped about the alleged scheme under his alias, Nuke Bizzle, in a video posted to YouTube last month, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The video was titled “EDD,” the acronym for California’s Employment Development Department. The video shows Baines and another rapper, “Fat Wizza,” flaunting cash, debit cards and government cheques. They’re also shown holding laptops while bragging about doing a “swagger for EDD.”
“I did got rich off EDD,” they rap in the video. “I just woke up to 300 Gs.”
“You gotta sell cocaine. I just file a claim.”
The video shows them waving EDD-stamped cheques around and saying: “Go to the bank, get a stack of these.”
The music video was posted on YouTube on Sept. 11 and has racked up more than 750,000 views to date, along with thousands of comments.
“I literally cannot fathom how someone could be this stupid,” one user commented on Sunday, after the arrest had been announced.
“Fun fact: The court will be playing this bop as evidence,” another wrote.
A third user described it as “self snitching at its finest.”
Officials say Baines flaunted his ill-gotten cash on his YouTube and Instagram accounts, where he showed off designer jewelry and large wads of $100 bills.
The description on the music video claims it was made with “props.”
Baines was initially arrested on Sept. 23 by Las Vegas police, according to an affidavit filed in court. He allegedly had eight EDD debit cards on him at the time, seven of which were under other people’s names.
He was arrested again on Oct. 16 following an investigation that turned up at least 92 EDD debit cards loaded with a combined $1.2 million, according to the affidavit. The debit cards were allegedly obtained through COVID-19 unemployment benefits for freelance and gig workers.
The suspect and his co-conspirators allegedly obtained the cards through the mail using the names of third parties, including identity theft victims. They spent about $704,000 from the cards, according to the affidavit.
The charges carry a maximum statutory sentence of 22 years in federal prison, CBS Los Angeles reports.
Fat Wizza denied being part of a scam in a video posted to his Instagram on Saturday.
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