Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Couple in their 20s are charged over 'bogus COVID unemployment claims worth $2.5 MILLION' after posting pictures of their designer clothes, cars and jewelry online

 A couple has been charged over bogus COVID unemployment claims worth $2.5 million after posting pictures of their designer clothes, cars and jewelry online, authorities said Tuesday. 

Johnny Richardson, 25, and Micahia Taylor, 27, are accused of conspiring with Brandi Hawkins to fraudulently release the government money 'intended to support individuals who lost their jobs during the pandemic'. 

Hawkins, 39, a former contract employee for the State of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, was charged in July, officials said. 

Images of an unemployed Richardson and Taylor online shows the pair enjoying a luxury lifestyle, buying brand new Mercedes-Benz cars worth $130,000, vacations and jewelry. 

Johnny Richardson, 25, and Micahia Taylor, 27, pictured, are accused of conspiring with Brandi Hawkins to fraudulently release the government money 'intended to support individuals who lost their jobs during the pandemic'

Johnny Richardson, 25, and Micahia Taylor, 27, pictured, are accused of conspiring with Brandi Hawkins to fraudulently release the government money 'intended to support individuals who lost their jobs during the pandemic'

Images of an unemployed Richardson, pictured, and Taylor online shows the pair enjoying a luxury lifestyle, buying brand new Mercedes-Benz cars worth $130,000, vacations and jewelry.

Images of an unemployed Richardson, pictured, and Taylor online shows the pair enjoying a luxury lifestyle, buying brand new Mercedes-Benz cars worth $130,000, vacations and jewelry.

Sharing an image of the car Richardson bought for Taylor, he wrote: '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.'

They are charged with wire fraud, The Detroit News reports.

It is understood authorities are hunting Richardson; Taylor appeared in court Tuesday where she was released on $10,000 unsecured bond.


Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Wyse had said: 'We simply do not know where that $2.5 million is. We think that makes her a flight risk.' 

The couple is said to have filed the fraudulent unemployment claims online, either themselves or through others.   

They then told Hawkins about the claims; she used her government role to fraudulently release payment, authorities said. 

Hawkins' home was raided in July; police found $238,000 in cash and Louis Vuitton items. Her cellphone is said to have contained messages from Taylor and communication about Richardson, who officials say is 'not gainfully employed and has no other known legitimate source of income.'

U.S. Postal Inspection Service Inspector Erin Leipold said: 'In general, posts to Richardson's account routinely depict him wearing designer clothing and custom diamond-encrusted jewelry and watches, driving luxury vehicles, and in possession of large sums of money'

U.S. Postal Inspection Service Inspector Erin Leipold said: 'In general, posts to Richardson's account routinely depict him wearing designer clothing and custom diamond-encrusted jewelry and watches, driving luxury vehicles, and in possession of large sums of money'

'Taylor's account often pictured her with Richardson, and she was also pictured wearing diamond jewelry and watches,' authorities said

'Taylor's account often pictured her with Richardson, and she was also pictured wearing diamond jewelry and watches,' authorities said 

U.S. Postal Inspection Service Inspector Erin Leipold said: 'In general, posts to Richardson's account routinely depict him wearing designer clothing and custom diamond-encrusted jewelry and watches, driving luxury vehicles, and in possession of large sums of money.

'Prior to setting her Instagram account to private, Taylor's account often pictured her with Richardson, and she was also pictured wearing diamond jewelry and watches.' 

In a statement the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of Michigan said: 'Hawkins actions resulted in the fraudulent disbursement of over $2,000,000 of federal and state funds intended for unemployment assistance during the pandemic.'

If found guilty of wire fraud the couple face 20 years in federal prison.  

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