Until he faced a federal judge on Tuesday, Maryland rapper Chad Arrington looked like an artist on the rise. He had a giant billboard in Times Square that showed him surrounded with stacks of money, and dozens more billboards all across Baltimore and Washington, D.C., under the name of his hip-hop alter ego, “Chad Focus.”
One of Arrington’s songs had earned more than 4 million views on YouTube, and more than 180,000 people followed his posts on Instagram. He spent than $65,000 on custom jewelry, including a custom bear-shaped pendant worth more than $10,000.
Arrington offered to share his secrets with his fans, boasting in one billboard, “I will teach you how to be rich.” According to prosecutors, though, Arrington’s preferred method of getting rich involved committing multiple federal crimes.
In an indictment unsealed Tuesday, prosecutors say Arrington faked his entire rap career with $4.1 million stolen on his employer’s company credit card. All of Arrington’s signs of rap industry success—the Instagram followers, the billboards, and the jewelry—was allegedly paid for with stolen money.
Now Arrington is being held in a Baltimore jail, facing identity theft and wire fraud charges. Arrington, 31, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Arrington allegedly bought fake YouTube views and Spotify plays, and spent $100,000 just on hats for his alter ego that said “FOCUS.” Arrington even allegedly paid $125,000 to get tickets to his own concerts in an effort to inflate his popularity. With help from four co-conspirators, Arrington allegedly spent millions on billboards and other efforts to boost his career.
Arrington’s plans weren’t limited to rap. He allegedly spent thousands of dollars on hoverboards and even spent tens of thousands more to create a bikeshare company, according to prosecutors.
Arrington’s scheme relied on forged credit card statements to his employer, according to the indictment. He allegedly spent more than $1.5 million in company money at companies controlled by two co-conspirators, who then kicked the money back to him so he could spend it on his music career. Arrington also allegedly commissioned two other co-conspirators to edit the real credit card statements to fool his employer and forged his supervisor’s signature to make sure the company kept paying his bills.
Arrington left copious records of the fraud scheme, according to prosecutors. Arrington titled one such email to a co-conspirator “Classified Work SHit.” In another email, Arrington purportedly urged his associate to falsify a credit card statement.
“After this clean job we can get to the emojis and have some fun,” Arrington wrote, according to the indictment.
Arrington spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time promoting his career, prosecutors said. Arrington paid more than $300,000 to contractors on gig economy site Fiverr, according to prosecutors, after they promised that they could promote his music on industry charts. Interestingly, Arrington claimed less than a week ago on Instagram that he could make an album go to the top of the charts with exactly $300,000.
“Lets rock this!!!” Arrington allegedly urged one company that had offered to buy him Instagram fake followers.
Arrington’s indictment offers a glimpse into the world of faked social media statistics. At one point, prosecutors say, Arrington spent $70,000 with a single company to boost his rap industry profile. He spent $1,119 per 100,000 YouTube videos, according to the indictment, $1,999 for 250,000 Spotify streams, and $1,499 for 15,000 Instagram followers.
Even before arrest, Arrington was notorious in the mid-Atlantic area for his ubiquitous, confusing billboards and ads at bus shelters. One ad presented Arrington facing off with his alter-ego, “Chad Focus,” as though they were two different people. In fact, though, “Focus” was just Arrington himself in sunglasses.
“Who will be the president of 2024?” the billboard asked, without offering any further explanation.