A group of young men tied to Brownsville’s Woo Gang have been charged with stealing millions of dollars in pandemic-related unemployment aid, then “brazenly” flaunting it on social media and rapping about it, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
On Thursday, the eleven men, aged between 20 and 23, were charged with conspiracy to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft. Ten of the men were arrested and one remains at large, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.
Peace said the young men “conspired to steal millions of dollars in pandemic-related unemployment assistance and then brazenly flaunted the proceeds of their crimes on social media.”
“These government programs are designed to provide financial assistance to those who are most in need during an unprecedented pandemic,” he added.
According to the complaint, between March 2020 and October 2021, the young men used 800 different IDs illegally obtained through the dark web to submit 1,000 claims to the New York State Department of Labor for unemployment insurance benefits.
They managed to get $4.3 million after having filed for approximately $20 million, the complaint says.
While they were filing the claims and withdrawing the money, they posted photos of themselves on social media flashing gang signs, standing in front of luxury vehicles and holding stacks of cash, the complaint says.
Several of the young men also appeared in a music video, “Trappin,” where they rapped “Unemployment got us workin’ a lot,” “a reference to the defendants’ fraudulent scheme,” Peace says.
According to the complaint, the young men used their own home addresses and email addresses in some of the applications, tipping off investigators. Investigators also found the defendants with multiple Key Bank ATM cards that had names related to the unemployment applications, and have ATM footage of the cards being used to withdraw cash.
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Labor, New York Regional Office Office of Inspector General, and the NYPD announced the arrests and charges alongside the U.S. Attorney’s Office.