HOLLYWOOD HILLS — Fontrell Antonio Baines, 31, a resident of Hollywood Hills, will be arraigned on Thursday, November 5, at a federal court in Los Angeles for charges related to COVID-19 relief fraud. U.S. Judge Paul L. Abrams will administer the arraignment, which is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Baines allegedly exploited the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provision of the CARES Act, which is designed to expand access to unemployment benefits to self-employed workers, independent contractors, and others who would not otherwise be eligible.
Baines, who is a rapper known as “Nuke Bizzle,” was arrested back on September 23 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Baines had been previously caught in a YouTube video boasting about getting rich from committing unemployment benefits fraud.
According to an affidavit filed with the case, 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.”
Prosecutors say a number of these debit cards were listed to addresses to which Baines had access in Beverly Hills and Koreatown, and amounted to “more than $1.2 million in jobless benefits,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Baines allegedly accessed “more than $704,000 of these benefits through cash withdrawals, including in Las Vegas, as well as purchases of merchandise and services.”
Prosecutors accuse Baines of three felony offenses — “access device fraud, aggravated identity theft, and interstate transportation of stolen property.” The rapper could face a statutory maximum sentence of 22 years in federal prison if convicted of all charges.