If you steal money from the government, it’s best not to brag about it in public. That’s the lesson learned too late by Fontrell Antonio Baines aka Nuke Bizzle of Memphis Tennessee. Last Friday, Baines was arrested in Las Vegas for defrauding the jobless benefits program set up for people who lost work as a result of the pandemic. He allegedly used fraud to collect cards from the California employment department worth $1.2 million.
Who tipped the government off to this crime? Baines himself who appeared in a music video as Nuke Bizzle, bragging about getting rich off EDD:
According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, Baines possessed and used debit cards pre-loaded with unemployment benefits administered by the California Employment Development Department (EDD). The debit cards were issued in the names of third-parties, including identity theft victims. The applications for these debit cards listed addresses to which Baines had access in Beverly Hills and Koreatown.
Evidence gathered during the investigation established that at least 92 debit cards that had been pre-loaded with more than $1.2 million in fraudulently obtained benefits were mailed to these addresses, according to the affidavit. Baines and his co-schemers allegedly accessed more than $704,000 of these benefits through cash withdrawals, including in Las Vegas, as well as purchases of merchandise and services.
The affidavit further alleges that Baines bragged about his ability to defraud the EDD in a music video posted on YouTube and in postings to his Instagram account, under the handles “nukebizzle1” and “nukebizzle23.” For example, Baines appears in a music video called “EDD” in which he boasts about doing “my swagger for EDD” and, holding up a stack of envelopes from EDD, getting rich by “go[ing] to the bank with a stack of these” – presumably a reference to the debit cards that come in the mail. A second rapper in the video intones, “You gotta sell cocaine, I just file a claim….”
This kind of fraud has been on the rise around the country this year:
In September, Arizona said it had flagged as potentially fraudulent more than one million of 2.4 million unemployment claims — more than 40 percent. During a six-week period over the summer, Colorado found that 77 percent of new claims submitted under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program were not legitimate.
Since March, Washington State has turned up nearly 87,000 cases in which cybercriminals have stolen or bought other people’s identities and used them to file fraudulent unemployment claims. From January 2018 to June 2019, there were just 184 such cases.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of fraudulent claims being made probably involving thousands of people who are bilking the system but only these two guys were dumb enough to brag about it on YouTube. Congrats to Nuke Bizzle and Fat Wizza on this dubious achievement. If convicted Baines faces a maximum of 22 years in prison.
Here’s the track. I’m not a huge rap fan but scrupulously honesty requires me to admit that, despite being morally repulsive, the song is somewhat catchy.