MI Couple Fraudulently Obtained $138K in COVID-19 Aid, Boasted About Lavish Purchases on Instagram
According to Robert Snell of The Detroit News, 27-year-old Micahia Taylor and 25-year-old Johnny Richardson have been charged with wire fraud in connection to large-scale, $2.5 million unemployment scheme involving money that was allocated to provide aid during the COVID-19 pandemic. Snell and Taylor received approximately $138,000 from the scam, spent it on luxury items, just couldn’t keep it to themselves, and took to Instagram to brag about it.
The investigation began in July 2020 when investigators identified 39-year-old Brandi Hawkins, a contract employee of Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency, illegally accessing Michigan’s computer systems to release fraudulent unemployment payments for herself and others to include Richardson. Hawkins’ home was raided that month, which uncovered and led to the seizure of “approximately $238,000 in cash, Louis Vuitton merchandise and receipts for other luxury items.”
According to Snell, “A search of her cellphone uncovered messages between Hawkins and others regarding unemployment benefits. That includes messages from Taylor and communications involving unemployment claims for Richardson, according to the criminal complaint,” and “Hawkins exchanged messages with one phone number that investigators traced to Taylor's salon in Detroit, ‘MDMH Beauty Bar,’ according to the criminal case. The number is prominently featured on her salon's Instagram page.”
Connecting the dots!
It was then that investigators discovered the involvement of Taylor and Richardson, as their Instagram accounts depict a laundry list of damning photographs to include lavish trips, custom jewelry and watches, designer clothing, large sums of money, as well as a $130,000 Mercedes-Benz SUV (a birthday gift for Taylor) with the caption, “BABY YOU DESERVE EVERYTHING I GOT THE BIG HOUSE YOU WANTED AND THE CAR AND THE JEWELRY BTW I LOVE YOU SO MUCH AND I'M NOT DONE NEXT WEEK I GOT SOMETHING BETTER @micahia_doessmyhair HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY.”
According to Snell, federal investigators indicated that Richardson is "not gainfully employed and has no other known legitimate source of income."
Taylor made an appearance in federal court last week and was released on $10,000 bond. The articles states that, “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.” The request was denied by Executive U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen.
Wire fraud charges are punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.