On Monday, a former USC Trojans linebacker found himself being arrested and accused of running a scheme in which he and other football players filed for hundreds of thousands of dollars in COVID-19-related unemployment benefits.
22-year-old Abdul-Malik McClain, who now attends Jackson State in Jackson, Mississippi, pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of mail fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft.
“According to the indictment, while a member of his university’s football team, McClain organized and assisted a group of other football players in filing fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits, including under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program established by Congress in response to the pandemic’s economic fallout. The indictment alleges that the claims – which were filed with the California Employment Development Department (EDD), the administrator of the state’s unemployment insurance (UI) benefit program – contained false information about the football players’ supposed prior employment, pandemic-related job loss, and job-seeking efforts in California.
The indictment alleges that the false statements in the UI applications led EDD to authorize Bank of America to mail debit cards to the football players. Those debit cards were loaded with at least hundreds of dollars, and sometimes thousands of dollars, in unemployment benefits, which the recipients used to make cash withdrawals at ATMs and to fund personal expenses. In some cases, McClain sought and obtained a cut for helping others file fraudulent UI applications.
McClain and his co-schemers also allegedly filed applications in their own names, in the names of other friends and associates, and in the names of identity theft victims. According to the indictment, these claims also falsely stated that the claimants were self-employed workers, including athletic trainers and tutors, who had lost work in California as a result of the pandemic. These allegedly false claims also induced EDD to authorize Bank of America to issue debit cards in the names of the claimants. The indictment alleges that McClain and his co-schemers caused those cards to be mailed to addresses where they could collect the mail.”
McClain allegedly caused at least three dozen fraudulent applications to be filed with EDD and those applications sought at least $903,688 in PUA benefits and led the EDD to pay out at least $227,736.
McClain was ordered to stand trial on February 15.
What’s even crazier is that each mail fraud count carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. The aggravated identity theft counts carry a two-year mandatory prison sentence consecutive to any sentence imposed on the mail fraud counts.
McClain was living in Los Angeles while the crimes were being committed during the summer of 2020, but he was announce in November 2020 that he was transferring to Jackson State.
Abdul-Malik McClain was a four-star prospect out of JSerra High in the 2018 class.