On Wednesday, a couple from Detroit, Michigan was sentenced to federal prison for their role in a multimillion-dollar plan to steal monies designated for jobless assistance during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The pair flaunted their wealth in Instagram images that are still viewable online while cheating the government.
According to the US Department of Justice, Johnny Richardson, 27, and Micah Taylor, 28, filed dozens of bogus unemployment claims in Michigan and at least four other states in 2020. To file the claims, they used both their own personal information and stolen identities.
Brandi Hawkins, a former contract employee for the State of Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, helped the couple by using her insider access to get the payments released.
This conspiracy resulted in the fraudulent distribution of at least $683,555, which the pair was ordered to pay in restitution on Wednesday, as well as Richardson’s sentence of 97 months in federal prison and Taylor’s sentence of 30 months.
In 2021, they both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.
Hawkins was sentenced to 58 months in federal prison in October 2021, along with a restitution payment of roughly $3.8 million, the total amount she collected from the fraudulent scam.
“At a time when thousands of people across Michigan were out of work because of the pandemic, these defendants were stealing benefits that should have gone to those trying to sustain their families,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Division, in a statement.
The duo flaunted big-ticket luxury goods in Instagram images that have yet to be taken down. In May 2020, Taylor uploaded a selfie of herself perched atop a Bentley.
A video from October 2020 on Richardson’s account zoomed up on his luxurious car and fashionable shoes, as well as jewelry and watches that appeared to be diamond-encrusted.