Feds allege that McClain, 22, orchestrated the scheme with former teammates at USC to obtain COVID relief unemployment benefits. On Monday, McClain pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of mail fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment: “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.”
Authorities say McClain was behind several dozen fraudulent applications in pursuit of a payoff over $900,000. However, at least $227,736 was paid out.
The Justice Department release said the government authorized Bank of America to issue debit cards to the football players, which they allegedly used to make cash withdrawals to fund personal expenses. The government alleges that Abdul-Malik 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,” the Justice Department release said. “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.”