- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2022

A rapper who made headlines two years ago by posting a music video of himself filing bogus COVID unemployment claims has agreed to plead guilty, federal prosecutors in California said Wednesday.

Fontrell Antonio Baines, who went by the rap name Nuke Bizzle, admitted he filed at least 92 false claims in other people’s names, worth nearly $1.3 million in benefits. He cashed out on more than $700,000 before authorities caught up with him.

He posted video of his scam to YouTube.

The footage shows him holding up stacks of envelopes with what appear to be applications, as he mocks those who were struggling during the pandemic.

He titled the video “EDD” — a reference to California’s unemployment benefits agency.

The video, where he’s joined by fellow rapper Fat Wizza, even gives a shout-out to President Trump, who signed the law making it easier to claim unemployment during the pandemic and boosting the weekly cash payments.

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson featured Mr. Baines’ video on his show on Sept. 22, 2020, in a segment about welfare fraud.

A day later, Baines was arrested by police in Las Vegas. Police said he was in possession of seven bogus unemployment benefit cards in six other people’s names.

Investigators said someone belatedly added a disclaimer to the YouTube video saying it “was created with props and was made for entertainment purposes.”

But at one point in the video an application is shown — and it turns out a bogus application was filed under that name, according to the charges filed.

Congress approved a major expansion of unemployment benefits during the early days of the pandemic, and trimmed eligibility checks to try to get the cash out the door.

That invited a flood of fraud that analysts say could reach as much as 40% of the $800 billion in payouts.

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

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

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