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Rapper who bragged about Covid aid fraud sentenced to over 6 years

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LOS ANGELES — A Tennessee rapper who bragged about committing aid fraud with Covid-19 in a music video was sentenced to more than six years in prison on Wednesday, prosecutors said.

The 77-month sentence also included pleas in separate gun and drug count cases, the US law firm in Los Angeles said.

Fontrell Antonio Baines, of Memphis, who has been dubbed “Nuke Bizzle,” stole more than $700,000 in Covid-19 unemployment benefits in a scheme that involved using other people’s names or stolen identities, prosecutors said.

Baines, 33, bragged about the fraud in videos on YouTube and Instagram, according to court documents. The fraud went from at least July to September 2020.

An issue posted online in September 2020 was titled “EDD,” which is the name of California’s Employment Development Department responsible for unemployment benefits.

The video, cited by prosecutors in court documents, shows handfuls of $100 bills and people checking mail and typing on laptops. At one point, another artist raps, “You have to sell cocaine, I can just file a claim.”

Federal public defenders representing Baines declined to comment Wednesday.

In addition to the Covid fraud case, Baines pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon and possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute, the U.S. Attorney for Central California said.

Baines said he was sorry in a letter to the judge. “Every day that I think about what I have done, I regret my actions and the impact my crime had on others,” he wrote.

In addition to the prison sentence, Baines was also ordered to pay $704,760 in restitution.

Congress approved massive funding to help people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, which shut down large parts of the economy.

The Office of the Inspector General of the United States Department of Labor has estimated that $872.5 billion in pandemic unemployment insurance — and at least $163 billion in pandemic unemployment insurance — could have been wrongly paid, some of it by fraud.

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