A couple from Detroit was charged today with participating in a multi-million dollar unemployment insurance fraud scheme aimed at defrauding the State of Michigan and the U.S. Government of funds earmarked for unemployment assistance during the COVID19 pandemic, announced United States Attorney Matthew Schneider.
Joining in the announcement were Irene Lindow, Special Agent-in-Charge, Chicago Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, Special Agent in Charge Douglas J. Zloto, US Secret Service, Acting Special Agent in Charge Felicia George, US Postal Inspection Service, Special Agent in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Sarah Kull, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and Jeffrey Frost, Special Fraud Advisor, Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity, Unemployment Insurance Agency.
Charged are Johnny Richardson, 25, and Micahia Taylor, 27.
According to the complaints, Richardson and Taylor conspired with Brandi Hawkins—a former contract employee for the State of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency charged in a criminal complaint this past July—to fraudulently release over $2.5 million in government money that was intended to support individuals who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is alleged that Richardson and Taylor, either themselves or through others, filed fraudulent unemployment claims over the Internet. Richardson and Taylor then provided Hawkins information on these claims, and Hawkins subsequently used her insider access to fraudulently release payment. Hawkins actions resulted in the fraudulent disbursement of over $2,000,000 of federal and state funds intended for unemployment assistance during the pandemic.
A complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Trial cannot be held on felony charges in a complaint. When the investigation is completed a determination will be made whether to seek a felony indictment.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Wyse. The investigation is being conducted jointly by the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, United States Secret Service, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Unemployment Insurance Agency, Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.
-- U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Michigan