Farmington Hills man who flaunted wealth sentenced in fraud scheme

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A Farmington Hills man who flashed his luxury lifestyle on Instagram was sentenced this week to 75 months in federal prison in connection to a pandemic unemployment aid fraud and credit card scheme, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. 

Andre Taylor Jr. pleaded guilty in December to one count each of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Andre Taylor appears in one Instagram posing in designer clothing and jewelry while standing in front of a Bentley. The post includes an expletive hashtag referring to federal investigators.

The 28-year-old was indicted in 2020.

According to a sentencing memorandum filed in U.S. District Court last week, by October 2019, Taylor had started acquiring credit cards intended for other people and using them without authorization. Taylor had different methods for obtaining such cards, including paying bribes to letter carriers in exchange for credit cards and other access devices stolen from mail routes. Some of the cards were mailed to Taylor's home and to relatives, prosecutors said

"Often, he would use stolen credit cards to purchase prepaid gift cards in bulk from the retailers, which could then be used like cash and transferred with ease," the court filing said.

An Instagram post showed Andre Taylor wearing a chain with the caption “100 on the neck no cap.” That appears to be a boast that the necklace costs $100,000, prosecutors said.

His scheme expanded in early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic led to many job losses and enhanced pandemic unemployment insurance benefits became available, investigators reported.

The government alleged in an indictment that Taylor filed claims in Michigan and other states after stealing other residents' identities and arranged for state unemployment insurance agencies to send him prepaid debit cards containing benefits, which included $600 additional weekly payments.

"Frequently, Taylor Jr. would have such cards sent to addresses along the routes of the letter carriers with whom he had financial relationships, so that his complicit letter carriers could intercept the unemployment insurance mailings and provide that material to him," the sentencing memo said.

Taylor, known on Instagram as "Big Juno," was arrested in June 2020 and released on bond. 

Soon after, though, "Taylor’s Instagram feed depicted him visiting Florida and California despite his bond restricting him to Michigan, displaying massive unexplained wealth (a luxury Audemars Piguet wristwatch, posing in front of and inside luxury automobiles, fanning out large amounts of cash), bragging about ongoing criminal activity and in close proximity to firearms and narcotics," prosecutors said.

Andre Taylor's social media feed included a photo of someone holding a large sum of money while standing next to a table. On the table is what appears to be a blue Michigan Unemployment Insurance debit card.

He has been incarcerated since another arrest in Los Angeles in October 2020, court records show.

In addition to 75 months in prison, Taylor was ordered to pay $774,607 in restitution to his victims. 

“This defendant indiscriminately stole from pandemic relief programs, from banks and from the public. He took money from wherever it was available, and he did not care whom he harmed along the way," U.S. Attorney Dawn Ison said Tuesday.