By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — On Monday, Authorities arrested a former USC linebacker after he allegedly organized a group of college football players in a scheme to fraudulently claim hundreds of thousands of dollars in COVID-related unemployment benefits. 

During his appearance in court, Abdul-Malik McClain, who transferred to Jackson State, pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of mail fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He was released on a $20,000 bond and is set to return for his trial on Feb. 15. He is accused of plotting a scheme that sought at least $903,688 but was ultimately issued $227,736 in unemployment benefits.  

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The allegations happened during McClain’s time at USC.

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 27: USC Trojans linebacker Abdul-Malik McClain (42) on the field before a game against the Arizona State Sun Devils played on October 27, 2018 at the Los Angels Memorial Coliseum in Los Angels, CA. (Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“When the university learned of this matter in September 2020, we notified law enforcement and have been fully cooperating with authorities,” the university said in a statement. 

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According to prosecutors, McClain allegedly organized and assisted a group of players as they made fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits. Their claims included the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program which was created by Congress as a result of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.  

In the indictment, prosecutors claim the football players used false information about their prior employment and pandemic-related job loss. The indictment also states the players claimed they continued to seek jobs. 

Prosecutors allege that the players received hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits through debit cards authorized by the California Employment Development Department and issued by Bank of America. The players then allegedly withdrew the money using ATMs and spent the funds on personal expenses. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, McClain sought and received a cut of the funds for helping the players in this scheme. 

McClain and the others involved are also accused of using not only filing applications in their own names but also under friends and associates and at times using names of identity theft victims.

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(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)