Oakland rapper Kafani accused of leading multimillion dollar fraud ring across California

OAKLAND — A popular Bay Area rapper known for his inspiring recovery after being shot and paralyzed has been named by federal prosectors as the ringleader in an identity fraud scheme that allegedly stole millions from victims across California.

Kafani, a 39-year-old rapper born Amir Rashad, is listed as the lead defendant in a federal wire fraud case, accused of conspiring with co-defendants Susan Arreola-Martin, Christopher Pool, and Tyrone Jones in a wide-ranging fraudulent loan scam that prosecutors said dates back to 2018.

“In each of the instances being investigated, an unknown subject or subjects stole personal identifying information from the victim, used that information to open a bank account in the victim’s name, and established an email account using the victim’s name,” FBI Special Agent Armando Delgado-Campos wrote in the complaint. “The subjects would then use the victim’s identity to obtain a refinance loan, using the victim’s property as collateral.

On Friday afternoon, hours after this story appeared online, Rashad responded in a live video on Instagram. He called the accusations “slander” and “bulls—,” and remarked that it’s “real crazy for your ex to send anonymous tips to FBI and send false emails to try and get you investigated.”

“You can’t believe everything you read in the news,” Rashad said on the video. He added, “They try to convict you before you even have your trial.”

According to the FBI, seven victims were identified. Most of them came forward to police with tips that someone had created fraudulent loans or made purchases in their names.

One victim, who owns properties in Oakland, reported repeated attempts to start bank accounts and fraudulent loans in her name for four months. Another two victims, in Orinda, said a $325,000 loan that they knew nothing about had been taken out in their names, authorities said.

In other cases, the defendants allegedly used the stolen identifying information to buy gold bars — including one gold bar order totaling nearly a $1 million from a victim in Beverly Hills. The FBI eventually caught onto this trend, and duped the defendants by sending $300 in silver bars to a Vallejo location where $24,000 worth of gold had previously been ordered. The feds conducted a stake out at the location, and saw Jones pick up the bars, in a car registered to Rashad’s brother.

Some of the evidence came from wiretaps of Rashad’s phone. In one conversation, obtained through a wiretap on Rashad’s phone, he and another person allegedly discussed stealing an elderly woman’s identity and setting up a fraudulent loan in her name.

“We good, we just need a granny,” Rashad allegedly said. A month later, Arreola-Martin, 69, impersonated the woman to set up a fraudulent loan, prosecutors said.

Rashad was on supervised release when the alleged offenses took place, after serving a 39-month sentence for a 2015 conviction of conspiring to commit wire fraud, court records show.

The investigation involved the Alameda County, Contra Costa County, and Los Angeles County district attorneys offices, as well as the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI. Federal authorities served search warrants at homes in Oakley and Richmond, and searched a 2007 Cadillac Escalade and a 2015 Mercedes Benz S550 as part of the investigation, according to court filings.

Rashad, who listed as a resident of Oakland and Antioch, had his first court appearance last week, and has been released after posting $250,000 bail, court records show.

Rashad’s rap career started in the mid-90s, and gained national recognition during the mid-2000s, at the peak of the hyphy movement.

In 2013, while filming a music video in East Oakland, Rashad was shot several times and paralyzed. But by the following year, the “Fast (Like a Nascar)” rapper had recovered so well — in part with the help of one of the Bay Area’s first robotic exoskeletons — he began training to run marathons.

“Just being able to take those first few steps was groundbreaking,” Rashad told an Oakland Tribune reporter in 2014. “It felt like I had my life back. I was able to stand; I could look people in the eye.”

Rashad also noted that the experience had taught him that life can change — dramatically — on a dime.

“I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for me. I’m still making my music,” he said, smiling. “You have to be grateful for what you have. Any time, things can change.”

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