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College Football Player Arrested For $903k COVID Fraud Scheme

Los Angeles, CA – A college football player was arrested on Dec. 20 after he allegedly orchestrated a scheme to fraudulently seek $903,688 in federal unemployment relief for COVID-19 in which $227,736 was paid out.

Abdul-Malik McClain, 22, allegedly put in for the benefits while attending USC in 2020, according to ESPN.

McClain allegedly organized and helped a group of football players to file fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, according to ESPN. The applications contained false information about the football players’ prior employment and COVID-related job loss and job-seeking efforts.

The Clarion Ledger reported that the scheme also included filing benefits under the names of people whose identities were stolen. The players alleged they were athletic trainers and tutors who lost work due to the pandemic, according to the Clarion Ledger.

Munir McClain, the brother of Abdul-Malik, was suspended in 2020 by USC for his role in the scheme, ESPN reported. Munir McClain said he applied for COVID aid because he thought his source of income of reselling high-end shoes had dried up, according to ESPN.

The federal government authorized Bank of America to hand out debit cards to the football players who then used those debit cards to pay for personal expenses, according to ESPN. Abdul-Malik McClain took a cut of that money for helping the others file the fraudulent applications, according to the Justice Department.

McClain was a linebacker as USC but has since transferred to Jackson State to play for Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. McClain played in one game for Jackson State in 2021 and made three tackles on Sept. 18.

Jackson State no longer has McClain’s profile up on its website.

McClain pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of mail fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft in court. He was released on $20,000 bond, according to ESPN.

Written by
Tom Gantert

Tom Gantert graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Tom started in the newspaper business in 1983. He has worked at the Jackson Citizen Patriot (Michigan), Lansing State Journal (Michigan), Ann Arbor News (Michigan), Vineland Daily-Journal (Michigan), North Hills News Record (Pennsylvania) and USA Today (Virginia). He is also currently the managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential, a daily news site of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Tom is the father of a Michigan State Police trooper.

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Written by Tom Gantert

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