Manhattan DA charges 18 – including several city employees – with COVID-19 benefits fraud after ghost gun probe
By Laura Harris // Mar 20, 2024

The office of Manhattan District Attorney (DA) Alvin Bragg recently investigated a ghost gun crime syndicate in New York City (NYC). However, the investigation resulted in 18 individuals being charged for reportedly being involved in Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) benefits fraud and identity theft as a result of this probe.

Bragg's office initially investigated a ghost gun factory run by Cliffie Thompson in his East Village apartment in January 2023. Thompson was sentenced to five years in jail for this. However, further scrutiny revealed his involvement in a bigger scheme.

The DA's office eventually found that Thompson and several others – including public servants at the local, state and federal level – conspired to steal the identities of homeless people and use them to defraud the Empire State of COVID-19 benefits. According to Bragg, the 18 defendants included workers at the United States Postal Service (USPS). It also included several workers at various city agencies such as the NYC Department of Homeless Services (NYCDHS), NYC Housing Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Former New York City Police Department officer Charde Baker, 35, was the scheme's alleged mastermind. She and her co-conspirators at the NYCDHS allegedly used their positions to facilitate the identity theft of homeless individuals. This purloined data was then exploited to file 170 fraudulent applications in the state's Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program – netting them over $1.2 million in ill-gotten gains. (Related: Southern California doctor accused of STEALING $150M from federal COVID-19 program for uninsured patients.)

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The NYCDHS fraudsters then enlisted USPS letter carrier Sabur Khalifah to intercept envelopes containing checks and bank cards to an Upper East Side address. Thompson, Baker, Khalifah and several others now face charges related to the extensive conspiracy – with the 35-year-old Baker facing fourth-degree conspiracy and burglary charges.  Judger Laura Ward set her cash bail at $200,000.

"As alleged, the takedown of a sophisticated ghost gun manufacturing operation uncovered wide-ranging schemes, including the link to a massive fraud and a planned burglary. These alleged schemes were orchestrated and largely operated by city employees, many of whom abused their positions of public trust for personal gain," said Bragg.

"We see a clear link between those engaging in violent crimes and traditional white-collar fraud at the same time. My office will continue leveraging the expertise and tools available at our disposal to dismantle these types of interconnected schemes, no matter how complex they are."

Baker lived a lavish life as the rest of NYC suffered during the pandemic

During the court hearing in Manhattan, Baker said she and a co-defendant used the pilfered funds for luxury shopping and vacations abroad. All this, while 1.6 million residents who previously received COVID-19 unemployment benefits suffered from the unextended program at the time.

In September 2021, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared that the state would not extend the COVID-19 unemployment benefits due to an $11 billion deficit. "Our unemployment system was so overtaxed last year and a half that we now have an $11 billion deficit," she remarked at the time.

"State law does not allow us to allocate any increase in resources as long as there is a deficit. We looked long and hard to find out what options are available for the people."

According to Hochul, federal programs, including Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Extended Benefits and the $300 per week in COVID support from the federal government would all expire.

Follow for more news about COVID-19 pandemic relief fund fraud.

Watch Fox Business host and former National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow discuss the fraudulent spending of federal unemployment benefits.

This video is from the NewsClips channel on

More related stories:

Watchdog exposes potential FRAUD in nutritional assistance programs in the form of “no-good-cause exemptions.”

Forensic accounting expert: HALF of pandemic relief funds ended up in the hands of America’s ENEMIES.

60% of recipients of Sweden’s unemployment benefits are IMMIGRANTS, and slightly under half are of non-European origin.

Cigna Healthcare used AI to deny hundreds of thousands of valid health insurance claims, lawsuit alleges.

America's top 20 nonprofit hospitals received over $23 billion in COVID-19 payments (while killing or injuring millions of people).

Sources include: 1 2

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