A Hollywood Hills rapper who bragged in a music video about getting rich by committing COVID-19 fraud plans to plead guilty to federal fraud and firearms charges.
Fontrell Antonio Baines, 33, who records music under the pseudonym “Nuke Bizzle,” claimed in one of his songs that he fraudulently took advantage of pandemic-related unemployment benefits. In the video in question, Baines held up a stack of envelopes that appeared to be from the California Employment Development Department (EDD).
Baines, who is originally from Memphis, admitted to using multiple addresses that he had access to in Beverly Hills and Koreatown to apply for unentitled EDD benefits, according to the United States Department of Justice.
In one instance, Baines used the identity of a Missouri man who briefly attended school in California to apply for unemployment benefits, even though the man never worked in the state. Baines used the card issued to that man to withdraw about $2,500 in cash using the EDD-issued debit card.
Since his arrest in October 2020, Baines has admitted to filing 92 fraudulent claims through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. In total, he received more than $700,000 in fraudulent benefits and applied for more than $1.2 million.
Baines, who is a felon, also admitted to federal investigators that he kept a semi-automatic pistol and ammunition at his home in Hollywood Hills.
In the coming days, Baines is expected to enter guilty pleas for mail fraud and illegal firearm possession, the DOJ said.
He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for the mail fraud charge and 10 years for the firearm charge. He also agreed to forfeit more than $56,000 previously seized by law enforcement as part of the investigation.
Anyone with information about attempted fraud involving COVID-19 fund can report it by contacting the DOJ’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. You can also submit a complaint online.