L.A. rapper accused of pandemic fraud to plead guilty

Los Angeles rapper Nuke Bizzle had an unusual way of infusing his work with an underworld sensibility.

The rapper brags about a plan to steal unemployment benefits in a YouTube music video. In the music video “EDD,” a nod to the California Employment Development Department, he rapped about doing “my swagger for EDD” and held up a stack of envelopes, presumably from the agency, and intoned that he was getting rich by doing it he “go[ing] with a stack of them to the bank.”

On Wednesday, he agreed to plead guilty to ripping off more than $1.2 million in pandemic unemployment benefits.

Bizzle, real name Fontrell Antonio Baines, 33, agreed to plead guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon. He is expected to appear in court in federal court in downtown Los Angeles.

According to a plea agreement, from July 2020 to September 2020, he used a series of stolen identities to fund his Hollywood Hills lifestyle to self-employed persons, independent contractors and others who, according to the affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, would not otherwise be eligible.

He faces up to 20 years in prison for mail fraud and 10 years in prison for possession of firearms and ammunition.

Baines was originally charged with three felonies — access device fraud, aggravated identity theft, and interstate transportation of stolen property. If convicted on all charges, he could face a maximum statutory sentence of 22 years in federal prison.

In the music video “EDD,” a nod to the California Employment Development Department, he raps about making “my swagger for EDD,” holds up a stack of envelopes, presumably from the agency, and intones that he’s going through “go[ing] with a stack of them to the bank.”

Investigators suspect that this is a reference to the debit cards sent to recipients of unemployment insurance. A second rapper in the video intoned, “You have to sell cocaine, I’m just filing a lawsuit.”

Baines, originally from Memphis, was taken into custody by Las Vegas police when he was a passenger in an overspeeding Cadillac Escalade. According to the affidavit, he consented to a search.

He was arrested by Las Vegas Metro police in connection with possession of eight EDD debit cards in seven different names without the consent of the owners, the affidavit said. Vegas police also found $49,734 under the third row seat where Baines was seated, the affidavit said. Baines pleaded not guilty to the arrest and was released on bail.

Prosecutors said at least 92 debit cards were “subpoenaed with $1.2 million in fraudulently obtained benefits” that were sent to addresses associated with the rapper in the video for “EDD.”

The debit cards were issued in the names of third parties, including victims of identity theft, the affidavit said. Prosecutors allege that the applications for these debit cards listed addresses in Beverly Hills and Koreatown that Baines had access to.

Prosecutors allege that Baines and several associates accessed more than $704,000 of those benefits through cash withdrawals. Some of the money was recovered in Las Vegas. As part of the plea deal, he admitted to being a criminal who was in possession of a 14-round semi-automatic pistol at his Hollywood Hills home. In addition, he has agreed to withhold an additional $56,000 in cash seized by federal agents.

Baines’ video included a disclaimer: “This video was created with props and was for entertainment purposes.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-07-06/rapper-accused-of-fraud-agrees-to-plead-guilty-but-will-nuke-bizzles-career-fizzle L.A. rapper accused of pandemic fraud to plead guilty

Alley Einstein

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