For Immediate Release
Orlando Man Sentenced to More Than Nine Years for COVID-19 Fraud and Illegal Possession of Firearm
ORLANDO, Fla. – U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron has sentenced Brian A. Blake, 31, of Orlando to nine years and eight months in federal prison for access device fraud, aggravated identity theft and possession of a firearm by convicted felon. As part of the sentence, the court also ordered Blake to pay restitution in the amount of $579,074 to victims of the offenses. The court further ordered that Blake forfeit proceeds and instrumentalities of the offenses, including $80,482 in cash located in Blake’s residence, an Aero Precision firearm and a number of computers and cellphones used to perpetrate the fraud. Blake pleaded guilty on October 18, 2022.
In March 2020, the CARES Act was enacted to provide immediate assistance to individuals, families and organizations affected by the COVID-19 emergency. This act authorized the U.S. Small Business Administration to offer Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) funding to business owners negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act further expanded the ability of workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to obtain Unemployment Insurance (UI) and increased the amounts of UI benefits for applicants.
According to court documents, in 2020, Blake fraudulently obtained $491,074 in UI benefits by filing unemployment claims across 25 different states in the names of identity theft victims. In addition, in June and July 2020, Blake submitted 26 fraudulent applications for EIDL loans in the names of identity theft victims attempting to secure a total of $341,200, of which $88,000 was disbursed to Blake. The total amount of funds that Blake attempted to fraudulently obtain was $832,274.
In addition, on July 10, 2020, during the execution of a search warrant at Blake’s residence, officers from the Orlando Police Department found an assault-style Aero Precision firearm, Model SL15. As a previously convicted felon, Blake is prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition under federal law.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Orlando Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Chauncey A. Bratt.