SUBSCRIBE NOW
$1 for 3 months. Save 97%.
SUBSCRIBE NOW
$1 for 3 months. Save 97%.

Feds say accused unemployment thief flashed loot, taunted investigators on social media

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

A Farmington Hills man was indicted Wednesday and accused of stealing unemployment aid, flaunting his luxury lifestyle on Instagram and taunting investigators with profane hashtags and pictures of mounds of money.

Andre Taylor Jr., 27, known on Instagram by the nickname "Big Juno," was accused of orchestrating one of the more brazen crime sprees involving unemployment assistance intended to help people endure job losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was charged with four counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft.

In this Instagram post, Taylor is standing in front of a BMW fanning money while wearing a diamond-encrusted  Audemars Piguet wristwatch. Such timepieces sell for more than $50,000.

He was accused of defrauding the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency and credit card companies while stealing the identities of area residents during a crime spree that started in April, in the early weeks of the pandemic.

Taylor filed unemployment insurance claims in Michigan and other states after stealing the identities of people, the government alleged. The alleged scheme involved Taylor arranging for state unemployment insurance agencies to send him prepaid debit cards containing benefits that included a $600 additional weekly payments provided last summer during the pandemic.

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.

“The allegations here include some of the most egregious, brazen abuses of the unemployment fraud system we’ve seen this year,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement. “While thousands of people in Michigan have lost their jobs and are struggling to put food on the table, con artists are stealing unemployment money away from them."

Some of the cards were mailed to Taylor's home and to relatives, prosecutors said. In other instances, Taylor paid cash bribes to mail carriers to give him the cards and obtain credit, gift and debit cards in the names of people who lived along their routes, prosecutors said.

Taylor spent those gift cards at Meijer, Kroger and other stores, according to the government.

An Instagram post in August shows 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.

He was originally charged with wire fraud, mail and aggravated identity theft in June. When he was arrested, Taylor said he had assets totaling $1,800 and worked at a Novi construction company, earning about $400 per week, according to a court filing.

He was released on bond and ordered to stay in Michigan, avoid committing crimes and to not possess firearms or dangerous weapons.

Taylor violated those conditions, prosecutors said. For proof, they included photos from his Instagram feed "@_bigjuno."

He posed behind the wheel of a Rolls-Royce, with firearms, next to mounds of money and in exotic locales, prosecutors said. In one Instagram post, with palm trees rising in the background, Taylor taunts the government with the profane hashtag #F---THEFEDS.

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.

"On his account on that site, Taylor has boasted about committing additional criminal activity, and has displayed substantial wealth inconsistent with his representations to pretrial services concerning his professional and financial situation," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Neal wrote. "He has traveled to both Miami, Florida and Los Angeles, California ..."

Though his travel was restricted to Michigan, Taylor was arrested earlier this month in Los Angeles.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @RobertSnellnews