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Not so funny business: New Jersey comedian admits role in $1.2-million Massachusetts pandemic unemployment fraud

Omar Thompson

Omar Thompson, king of comedy but no criminal mastermind.

A Paterson, NJ man who runs a Harlem comedy club pleaded guilty today to a federal charge of wire fraud for helping to suck money out of the Massachusetts pandemic unemployment fund, the US Attorney's office in Boston reports.

Omar Thompson, also known as Omar the Comedian, and an as yet unnamed co-conspirator first set up their own accounts on the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance Web site for pandemic-related unemployment after the federal government began giving states money for pandemic unemployment in the spring of 2020, according to an affidavit by a Secret Service agent on the case.

Thompson, who has no connection to Massachusetts, received a total of $19,000 in Massachusetts payments - even as he was getting another $21,000 from a separate federal small-business fund for his comedy club in New York.

He set up his account with Massachusetts in May, 2020, a month after he applied for unemployment in New Jersey, the affidavit states. Later in the year, he tried setting up a second account for himself, this time listing a Springfield, MA address - but directing that his money go to his checking account in New Jersey.

After their own payments started flowing, the two then used the personal information of a variety of relatives and others in creating some 100 Massachusetts accounts, which paid out some $1.2 million in claims. None of the relatives lived in Massachusetts, either - and some were already getting unemployment in their actual home states. The IP numbers tracked by the state Web site led to computers owned by Thompson and his co-conspirator, the affidavit states.

According to the affidavit, the state paid out on 50 claims from accounts that used out-of-state driver's licenses and mailing addresses on their online forms - in some cases involving people who were already drawing unemployment in other states.

As part of its effort to prove that Thompson was not a Massachusetts resident, the FBI scrolled through his social-media accounts going back at least two years. The affidavit cited an Instagram page from 2019 showing Thompson holding a New Jersey business certificate for his then new company, Oceans of Laughs.

Thompson now faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, although the harshest sentences are typically reserved for repeat offenders. He faces sentencing on March 22.

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PDF icon Complete FBI affidavit866.3 KB

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How is this different from what Bella Luna did?

Voting closed 6

I tried some trivial Google searches for Bella Luna and unemployment/pandemic assistance fraud but found nothing.
Can you forward any references for this?

A lot of companies and corporations have abused various relief funds and it's not ok - I'd def would like to know the local ones are responsible for abuse if it is in fact true.

Voting closed 21

That a small business was able to win federal PPP money they were eligible for and he wasn't.

It's a bit of a different situation than some guy in NJ creating dozens of unemployment accounts in a state he doesn't live in.

Voting closed 28

Crimes and non-crimes are different things? The more you know!

Voting closed 3

Considering all of the good Bella Luna / Milky Way did and the community work of the founders (the Gun Buyback, for one)... that borders on slander. Not legally, but it sure feels like it.

Among other things, Hyde Square wouldn't be the lively business district it is today if not for Bella Luna/Milky Way and the Brendan Behan pub who set up shop there in the early-90's and stuck it out. "Anchor tenants" of sorts.

Or you're just a hater.

Voting closed 12

He should pay back every single penny he got. And then he should spend the next year doing prison comedy shows for all the inmates.

Voting closed 27

he will probably get laughed at a lot. That's a start.

Voting closed 9

In the early days of the pandemic, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts tried to get people enrolled and paid as quickly as possible, in many cases not enforcing waiting periods or requiring some of the documentation and investigation they would need during normal, non-emergency times. Which of course brought out the worst impulses in the worst among us --unscrupulous people like this clown who saw a golden opportunity to swindle taxpayers. I'm so happy to see that he and others are not getting away with it. I hope the authorities track down each and every one of these crooks and punish them to the full extent of the law.

Voting closed 6

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Voting closed 19

A want-to-be masshole walks into a bar...

Voting closed 13