To hear Nuke Bizzle’s version of events, he never really had any choice but to recover as much pandemic cash as he could steal.
Bizzle, the rap name of Fontrell Baines, is now seeking clemency from a federal judge who will soon decide how long he will spend behind bars.
“I’ve never had a birthday party. I’ve never had a normal family dinner. I’ve never been to a wedding, only funerals and court dates,” Baines said. to a judge in a memo ahead of his Dec. 7 sentencing.
His fraud was arrogant, to say the least.
He recorded himself sending stacks of fake jobless claims, then posted the footage of his crime on YouTuibe as a rap video titled ‘EDD’, according to the agency for l California job.
“Unemployment is 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 Nuke Bizzle’s career, and Baines said he had record deals “on the table”. It blew up so big that Fox News’ Tucker Carlson took notice, devoting part of his September 22 show to the Nuke video and calling it emblematic of the government’s mess on pandemic unemployment claims. .
A day later, Baines was arrested by police in Las Vegas and found with unemployment benefit payment cards in other people’s names. Less than a month later, authorities went to arrest him for fraud and found him with a Glock .357 pistol, which earned him another charge because, as a repeat offender, he was not supposed to. possess a firearm.
“My kids love this song and I hate it because they don’t even know what EDD is,” he told the judge in the case in a personal letter asking for clemency. “It was the worst two years of my life.”
Prosecutors say the fake unemployment cases Baines handled totaled nearly $1.3 million in potential benefits, and more than $700,000 was actually paid to his address before the scam collapsed.
He is far from alone.
The federal government has paid out about $800 billion in pandemic unemployment benefits and a colossal amount has been stolen. An expert told the Washington Times that more than $200 billion was likely misappropriated by fraudsters.
Some of them were international criminal syndicates, but independent actors here in the United States have also seen dollar signs in the generosity of taxpayers. They range from postal workers to prison inmates.
Baines says he never intended to be a part of it. He told the judge that he was fine with his address being used by friends who were scamming the system and that he would hand over the mail to them in return for cash payments.
But when he discovered how much money was passing through his hands in the form of unemployment benefit payment cards, he “felt played” by his friends.
“I started taking the cards myself and telling them they never made it,” he said.
“It was hard to resist the money I could draw from the cards, especially when everyone else was doing it,” he said.
His attorney said Baines ended up with far less than the more than $700,000 prosecutors awarded him.
It’s hard to reconcile this version with Baines’ rap video, which shows him handling stacks of application letters. Investigators managed to decipher a return address on one of the mail that Baines flashes and discovered that a bogus claim had been submitted to that name just days before the video was posted.
Baines said he got into rapping to escape a difficult home life. He was born to a mother in prison, raised by a crack-addicted aunt, started caring for his four younger brothers when he was 10, and years later was seduced by a baby sitter.
He gambled for money, got caught up in a gang bust in 2008 and was shot in the leg, his lawyer said. Baines had no health insurance and his attorney says that led to him being patched up “superficially” and pushed out onto the streets with a prescription for opiates which fueled continued drug addiction.
It also sent him to Las Vegas, where he started rapping, with some success.
Then came the “EDD” video.
“I made a rap video about it because the rap industry tends to glorify crime and I got caught up in that, but another thing that rappers rap a lot about is jail and now I’m caught up in this too,” he told the judge.
The Nuke Bizzle video had over 400,000 views on YouTube at the time of Baines’ arrest.
The video is still available on other channels, including co-performer Fat Wizza’s, where it has 236,000 views.
Prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald to impose a 96-month sentence, which would cover not only the COVID fraud but also the firearms and drug charges. They also want the judge to order Baines to repay $704,760.
Baines’ lawyer says he has been in jail since his arrest and has suffered before, under the near total COVID lockdown. He missed the death of his aunt – his family “told him she died of a nervous breakdown after hearing about her arrest – and he was away from his five children, aged 3 to 12.
The lawyer asked the judge for a sentence of 70 months.