Brooklyn street gang accused of stealing $4.3m in Covid-19 relief money after being caught showing money on social media
A Brooklyn street gang has been accused of pocketing more than $4.3 million in pandemic relief benefits, using stolen identities to file 1,000 fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims, say the prosecutors.
Eleven members of the Woo gang were accused of filing more than $20 million in bogus claims for benefits, about a fifth of which were approved, and sending the payments to addresses they controlled.
Prosecutors said the gang was eventually arrested, in part because they posted numerous photos and videos of themselves online, showing gang signs and stacks of cash, often in front of cars. luxury, including Lamborghinis and Mercedes Benz.
“Photographs and videos of the defendants posted on publicly accessible social media pages show them (a) expressing their allegiance to the Woo street gang through hand signs and other means, and (b) displaying their earnings. ill-gotten by displaying large stacks of United States Currency and standing near luxury vehicles,” investigators wrote in the criminal complaint.
In May 2021, several of the accused gang members appeared in a YouTube music video, titled “Trappin,” which included lyrics such as: “Unemployment made us work a lot,” which investigators say in the documents. court proceedings, was a reference to the fraud scheme.
Ten of the 11 men – all of whom are 23 or younger – were arrested on Thursday and could not be reached for comment. It was unclear whether they had ever retained attorneys. One of the men remains at large, investigators said.
Prosecutors say that between March 2020 and October 2021, the men obtained the names, dates of birth and social security numbers of 800 people and used them to submit nearly 1,000 claims to the state Department of Labor in New York for pandemic assistance unemployment benefits. programs.
While many applications were denied, several hundred were approved, and prosecutors say the men had the debit cards containing the benefit payments sent to the mailing addresses they had access to.
The 11 men have been charged with conspiracy to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.