Rapper Sentenced for Ripping Off Covid Relief, Then Rapping About It

Unwise emcee Fontrell Antonio Baines—aka “Nuke Bizzle”—got six years in prison and an order to pay over 700K in restitution

Fontrell Antonio Baines, the 33 year-old Tennessee-born rapper otherwise known as “Nuke Bizzle,” was sentenced to 77 months in prison on Wednesday after rapping on YouTube about his exploits scamming a California COVID relief program.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District, Baines was also ordered to pay $704,760 in restitution to the California Employment Development Department (EDD) and was sentenced for three other criminal charges, including one count of mail fraud, one count of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, and possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute. He pleaded guilty on counts and has been in federal custody since October 2020. 

In a rather specifically incriminating rap—titled “EDD,” and which Baines posted to both YouTube and Instagram, naturally—the unwise emcee holds up envelopes from EDD and confesses to getting rich by “go[ing] to the bank with a stack of these,” referencing a series of debit cards mailed to him after he obtained unemployment benefits using the names of third parties and identity theft victims. In the sentencing memorandum, federal prosecutors said Baines used the program as his “personal piggybank.” Baines himself reinforces this theory in his music video, waving stacks of cash for the camera, looking over his weapon of choice for that particular crime—a laptop—while brushing his teeth, grilling food and dancing on a balcony.

The absurdity of the performance might look like over-the-top satire if it wasn’t so drenched in reality. To get rich off his “swagger for EDD” as he raps, Baines falsely used the identity of a Missouri man who attended school but never worked in California, and he listed addresses in Beverly Hills and Koreatown on benefits applications which EDD then supplied with debit cards pre-loaded with unemployment benefits. All in all, Baines filed 92 fraudulent claims, racking up $1,256,108 in attempted losses and actual losses of at least $704,760. 

Beyond the EDD fraud, Baines illegally kept a semi-automatic pistol with 14 rounds of ammunition, violating restrictions since he had already banked felony convictions for unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell in 2011, as well as felony possession of a firearm in 2014. And for the icing on his criminal cake, Baines attempted to check a bag at the Memphis International Airport in January 2020, only to be discovered with a range of controlled substances including such popular favorites as oxycodone and codeine. 

In the sentencing memorandum, prosecutors, who had requested that Baines get 98 months in prison, noted the way he encouraged others to rip-off COVID relief programs, stating, “He has demonstrated over and over again that he will not conform his conduct to the law.”

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