Rapper Nuke Bizzle Sentenced to Prison After Boasting About COVID Relief Fraud

Rapper Nuke Bizzle prison
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Rapper Nuke Bizzle prison
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Photo Credit: Giorgio Trovato

Rapper Nuke Bizzle, a Tennessee rapper who boasted in a YouTube music video about COVID relief fraud, has been sentenced to prison.

Fontrell Antonio Baines, also known as rapper Nuke Bizzle, has been sentenced to more than six years in federal prison and ordered by a federal judge to return over $700,000 in stolen unemployment insurance money. The 33-year-old Tennessee artist had boasted in a music video posted to YouTube about exploiting a COVID relief program intended for those who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Baines was handed the sentence Wednesday by a federal California judge after he pleaded guilty to mail fraud and two other counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon and possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute.

In the mail fraud conviction, the judge found that Baines filed 92 falsified Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims with California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) between July and September 2020 — part of a scheme to extract around $1.2 million of federal funds for personal benefit. However, he only obtained about $700,000 before being caught.

According to court filings, federal agents identified Baines after he uploaded a music video titled “EDD” to YouTube, where he rapped about committing the fraud. Baines filed relief applications with false statements about applicants’ work histories and in-state residencies using third-party identities, including victims of identity theft.

The rapper listed California addresses in Beverly Hills and Koreatown in Los Angeles, to which he had access, enabling him to obtain debit cards preloaded with unemployment benefits by the EDD. He then used these cards to withdraw cash from ATMs, federal agents said in court documents.

In the video, believed to have been uploaded on September 11, 2020, Baines holds up a stack of envelopes from California’s Employment Development Department — including one addressed to an individual confirmed by federal agents in court filings as a victim of identity theft — saying he was getting rich going “to the bank with a stack of these.”

The video opens with a recording that states, “Your card has now been activated and is ready for use,” before an image closely resembling the logo of California’s Employment Development Department appears. The song features lyrics like, “I got rich off EDD,” “10 cards swiping 10k a day,” and “you got to sell cocaine, I can just file a claim.”

The video was forwarded by a special agent at the US Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General to a branch chief in the office’s data science team, tasked with identifying the rapper. Baines took full responsibility for his involvement in the scheme to defraud the EDD, which he said was initially orchestrated by his friends. The rapper’s federal prison sentence is also related to criminal drug trafficking charges in January 2020 and illegal firearms possession in October 2020, to which Baines also pleaded guilty.