Rapper Gets 6-Year Sentence for COVID-19 Fraud Plot

Los Angeles-based rapper Nuke Bizzle will be spending several years behind bars. The musician, real name Fontrell Antonio Baines, was sentenced Wednesday to over six years in prison in connection to his COVID-19 fraud plot. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, per KTLA, in addition to his 77 months in federal prison, the 33-year-old was also ordered to pay $704,760 in restitution.

The sentencing comes after Baines in July accepted a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to federal fraud and firearms charges. Authorities say Baines illegally acquired more than $700,000 in pandemic unemployment benefits administered by the California Employment Development Department from July 2020 to September 2020. The rapper, who's originally from Memphis, Tennessee, allegedly used the names of his collaborators and addresses in Beverly Hills and Koreatown to obtain the unemployment benefits. The debit cards arrived pre-loaded with unemployment benefits obtained through 92 fraudulent claims with total losses of at least $704,760. Federal prosecutors said, "through his fraud, Baines turned the taxpayer-funded program into 'his personal piggybank.'"

Baines was initially arrested by Las Vegas authorities in September 2020 after he was found carrying eight debit cards, seven of which were under different names, later accepting a plea deal in July. Prior to his arrest, he released a song and music video titled "EDD," in which he bragged about getting "rich off of EDD." In the music video, Baines held up a stack of EDD envelopes, the song including lyrics like, "unemployment so sweet / We had 1.5 land this week" and "You gotta sell cocaine, I can just file a claim." During his sentencing, he asked the judge for a more lenient sentence, alleging that the scheme was devised by his friends, and also apologized for his involvement in the fraud case.

"They said they will give me money for letting mail come to the house. They would send the envelopes, and all I had to do was give them the mail when it arrived," he wrote in a letter to the judge. "When I found out how much money they were getting I felt played, and I started just taking the cards myself and telling them they never made it."

Per KTLA, the rapper's Wednesday sentencing is combined with two separate charges besides the EDD case. In October 2020, Baines was charged with illegally possessing a semi-automatic pistol. In July, he pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, and in August, he pleaded guilty to possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute.