Jackson State football player Abdul-Malik McClain was arrested in Los Angeles on Monday after being indicted on charges of fraud relating to COVID-19 unemployment money.
McClain, 22, surrendered to federal law enforcement and was arraigned in U.S. District Court, where he pled not guilty to being the ringleader of an alleged scheme that raked in at least $227,736 in unemployment payments, according to a news release from the Central District of California U.S. Attorney's Office. McClain was released on $20,000 bond and ordered to stand trial Feb. 15.
A Jackson State spokesperson declined to comment when reached by the Clarion Ledger on Monday night. Jackson State has since removed McClain's bio page from its athletics website.
McClain, who transferred to Jackson State last December, is charged with 10 counts of mail fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft that occurred while he was a member of the Southern Cal football team. Each mail fraud count carries a maximum 20-year federal prison sentence. The aggravated identity theft counts carry a two-year minimum.
McClain is accused of causing "at least three dozen" fraudulent applications to be filed with the California Employment Development Department during the summer of 2020. The fraudulent applications sought at least $903,688 in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits, according to the news release. The payout was at least $227,736.
"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 release states. "The indictment alleges that the claims ... contained false information about the football players’ supposed prior employment, pandemic-related job loss, and job-seeking efforts in California."
A federal grand jury returned an indictment against McClain on Dec. 16. The indictment was unsealed Monday afternoon.
According to the news release, McClain and the other claimants "filed applications in their own names, in the names of other friends and associates, and in the names of identity theft victims." The claims falsely stated the claimants were self-employed workers, including athletics trainers and tutors, who had lost work in California because of the pandemic, according to the indictment.
The claims led to the California Employment Development Department authorizing Bank of America to mail debit cards to the claimants in their names, the news release states.
"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," according to the news release. "In some cases, McClain sought and obtained a cut for helping others file fraudulent UI applications."
McClain, a former four-star recruit, appeared in one game for Jackson State this season, recording three tackles against Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 18.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Jackson State's Abdul-Malik McLain arrested on COVID-19 fraud charges