Crime and Courts

8 Brooklyn Men Stole Millions of Dollars in COVID Relief Fraud Scheme: Prosecutors

Suspects in fraud case holding stacks of allegedly stolen cash for social media photo
Department of Justice

Eight Brooklyn men are accused of fraudulently getting their hands on $2 million in COVID-19 relief funds, then flaunting the cash on social media, prosecutors said.

Between June 2020 and April 2021, the eight men put in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims to the New York State Department of Labor, according to a criminal complaint. They used the personal information of others to get the benefits that were funded, either in part or wholly, by pandemic assistance programs, the complaint read.

"The defendants not only fraudulently obtained $2 million in pandemic -related unemployment benefits using information from third-party victims, they audaciously displayed the proceeds of their fraud — large amounts of stolen cash — on social media," said Acting U.S. Attorney Mark Lesko.

The alleged scheme netted the men about $2 million in unemployment benefits, which was distributed among the defendants and others, according to the complaint.

Six of the men, all between the ages of 18 and 25, have been caught, arrested and appeared before a judge on Tuesday. Bryan Abraham, Carlos Vazquez, Angel Cabrera, Gianni Stewart, Andre Ruddock and Seth Golding were released on $75,000 bond apiece.

Four of them — Cabrera, Golding, Stewart and Vazquez — posted pictures of themselves on social media seemingly holding large stacks of cash, flaunting the wads of $100 bills in front of cars or covering their faces, prosecutors said.

Each of the six men faces fraud charges after being seen on surveillance videos withdrawing money from KeyBank ATMs by using fraudulent debit cards, the criminal complaint says, allegedly making multiple withdrawals worth thousands of dollars each time. Two of the men, Stewart and Vazquez, along with a co-conspirator used more than three dozen debit cards in other people's names on Sept. 5 to take out more than $26,000, court papers allege.

Attorney information for the men was not immediately available.

Two other defendants, Armani Miller and Johan Santos, are still on the loose and face the same charges.

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