- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 8, 2022

A rap artist who posted a video showing himself filing bogus COVID unemployment claims has been sentenced to more than 6 years in a federal prison.

Fontrell Antonio Baines, who rapped under the name Nuke Bizzle, pleaded guilty to mail fraud, as well as drug and gun charges. His total sentence, delivered by a judge Wednesday, is 77 months.

Investigators connected nearly $1.3 million in bogus unemployment applications to Baines and said the government paid out more than $700,000 on those claims before the scam was shut down.

Baines recorded himself sending off stacks of bogus unemployment applications, then posted the footage of his crime on YouTube as a rap video titled “EDD,” named for California’s jobs agency. 

“Unemployment so sweet,” he sang while his rap partner, Fat Wizza, intoned: “You gotta sell cocaine, I can just file a claim.”

It was the biggest hit of Baines‘ career, and Fox News’ Tucker Carlson took notice, devoting part of his Sept. 22, 2020, show to Nuke’s video and calling it emblematic of the government’s bungling of pandemic unemployment claims.

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A day later, Baines was stopped by police in Las Vegas and was found with unemployment payment cards in others’ names. The scam unwound from there.

Baines, through his lawyer, pointed to hardship growing up, saying he never had much of a chance to escape a life of drugs and crime. The new firearms conviction stems from his possession of a weapon after having been convicted of a felony.

Baines told the judge he was merely a cog in a broader fraud, and that he let scammers use his mailing address for fraudulent payments to be made. Once he learned how much money was coming in, he decided to grab some of it for himself.

That version butts up against the rap video, which shows him handling stacks of application letters. Investigators managed to decipher a return address on one of the pieces of mail Baines is flashing and found a bogus claim submitted in that name just days before the video was posted.

Baines asked the judge for a 70-month sentence. Prosecutors asked for 96 months.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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