Coronavirus scheme financed Rolex shopping spree, feds say

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

A Southfield man splurged on a rare, $44,500 Rolex watch during a pawn shop binge bankrolled with federal unemployment money that was supposed to help workers endure the COVID-19 pandemic, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Samuel Baker, 37, was involved in an unemployment insurance scheme that defrauded Michigan, Pennsylvania and the federal government out of approximately $200,000, prosecutors said in unsealing a 16-page complaint. That number could increase due to ongoing investigation.

"Rolex: The Impossible Collection," by Fabienne Reybaud.

The alleged scheme dates to May. That's when prosecutors say Baker started filing fraudulent unemployment insurance claims that utilized phony Social Security numbers and fake driver's licenses. Some of the money was linked to the  Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which provided unemployed workers an extra $600 per week earlier this year. A second pandemic program provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits.

Baker received unemployment payments via debit cards every two weeks and withdrew cash at area ATMs last month, prosecutors said.

Earlier this month, Baker bought the Rolex from a Southfield pawn shop, according to the government. He also used cash to pay off $70,700 in debts at the pawnshop, an FBI special agent wrote in an affidavit filed in federal court.

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