Folks are still out here allegedly scamming the system after gaining access to unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed so many scammers and the drama continues.
A man and woman from Detroit – who are reportedly dating – have been accused of scheming to steal unemployment insurance money that would help essential workers during the pandemic. (Sound familiar? If not, click HERE.)
According to reports, 25-year-old Johnny Richardson and his 27-year-old hairstylist girlfriend Micahia Taylor were charged with wire fraud, and are accused of teaming with a contract employee of Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency to steal more than $2.5 million.
It’s alleged that Johnny Richardson and Micahia Taylor would post on Instagram pictures of the stuff they bought with stolen money. https://t.co/5dHkqLRQL8
— FOX 32 News (@fox32news) October 28, 2020
A third person – at the center of this scam-ation – was identified by police as 39-year-old Brandi Hawkins. Brandi, also from Detroit, was charged in the scheme in July and was a contract employee at the UIA. Hawkins is accused of fraudulently distributing more than $2.5 million in federal and state funds.
It’s alleged the scammers were flexing on social media, like the screenshot below, with their luxury gifts after being issued the funds, and pics were snapped before they went private with their accounts.
“BABY YOU DESERVE EVERYTHING I GOT THE BIG HOUSE YOU WANTED AND THE CAR AND THE JEWELRY,” Richardson wrote in the Instagram post. “BTW I LOVE YOU SO MUCH AND I’M NOT DONE NEXT WEEK I GOT SOMETHING BETTER.”
The Detroit News reports:
Johnny Richardson, 25, and Micahia Taylor, 27, both from Detroit, are accused of filing fraudulent claims. They would then tell an employee at the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency about their claims and that employee would release the payments, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider’s Office announced Tuesday.
That third person was Brandi Hawkins, 39, also from Detroit, who was charged in the scheme in July and was a contract employee at the UIA. Hawkins is accused of fraudulently distributing more than $2.5 million in federal and state funds.
Investigating agents were able to link the unemployment claims made by Richardson and Taylor to their Instagram accounts, where they routinely posted pictures of themselves with expensive items. Posts on Richardson’s account show him wearing designer clothing and diamonds, and driving luxury vehicles, according to the complaint.
Another report revealed how others who profitted from the scheme spent their ill-gotten money:
They are the latest people charged with fraud involving federal pandemic assistance. Several people in Metro Detroit have been charged in recent months, including Detroiter Darrell Lamont Baker, 51, who prosecutors say schemed to obtain almost $600,000, some of it spent buying two Cadillac Escalades, a Dodge Charger, and a Hummer.
The couple bragged on Instagram about spending the money on luxury items, including a new Mercedes-Benz, trips and custom jewelry, according to criminal complaints unsealed in federal court.
In one post, Richardson showed a Mercedes-Benz SUV that retails for more than $130,000 — a birthday gift for Taylor, according to the government.
Interestingly, Johnny has yet to be found. And $2.5M is missing right along with him, which prosecutors stated makes Micahia a flight risk. Yup – she alrady had her court date yesterday. So it seems Johnny left her holdig the bag.
Federal agents spent Tuesday searching for Richardson. Taylor, meanwhile, made a brief appearance in federal court in Ann Arbor that provided a sharp contrast to her lifestyle portrayed on social media.
Instead of wearing a bikini and soaking in a bathtub surrounded by rose petals, Taylor wore handcuffs, a blue zip-up jacket and a dour expression before being released on $10,000 unsecured bond.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Wyse wanted her to wear a GPS tether, noting that her boyfriend is missing as is most of the $2.5 million in pandemic aid.
“We simply do not know where that $2.5 million is,” Wyse told Executive U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen. “We think that makes her a flight risk.”
The GPS tracker request was denied.
Another Detroit resident named Jermaine Rose who was a lead claims reviewer for the Unemployment Insurance Agency, as well as Serenity Poynter, were charged in the scheme after being accused of filing fraudulent unemployment claims. Rose was accused of working with Poynter, releasing payments for claims known to be fraudulent.
We have to do better.
Photos: Igor Lushchay/Shutterstock.com