FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. – A 28-year-old Farmington Hills man bribed letter carriers to obtain other people’s credit cards and later expanded his scheme to have those carriers intercept fraudulent COVID unemployment benefits he had filed for and sent to homes along their routes, officials said.
Credit card theft scheme
Andre Taylor Jr., 28, of Farmington Hills, started to steal credit cards in October 2019 and use them without the consent of the cardholders, according to authorities.
Federal officials said Taylor obtained the cards through various methods, including paying bribes to letter carriers in exchange for the cards and other access devices stolen from mail routes.
After he obtained the cards, Taylor used them to make purchases at various retailers, officials said. He also purchased prepaid gift cards in bulk, so he could use the stolen money like cash and easily transfer it, according to court records.
He operated this scheme in Michigan and other states, authorities said.
In March 2020, Taylor expanded his scheme to include stealing COVID unemployment insurance benefits, federal officials said.
When enhanced pandemic unemployment insurance became available, Taylor started to gather personal information from others and file claims with several state workforce agencies, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to authorities.
In some cases, Taylor directed the benefits to be electronically loaded onto bank cards or accounts that he controlled, officials said.
He would also have agencies arrange to mail pre-loaded debit cards containing stolen PUA funds to addresses he had access to, court records show. Those addresses were often along the routes of letter carriers he had bribed, authorities said. The letter carriers could intercept the unemployment insurance mailings and give them to Taylor, federal officials said.
Taylor pleaded guilty in December 2021 to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
He was sentenced Monday (May 9) to 75 months (six years and three months) in federal prison. He also has to pay $774,607 in restitution to his victims.
“This defendant indiscriminately stole from pandemic relief programs, from banks, and from the public,” United States Attorney Dawn Ison said. “He took money from wherever it was available, and he did not care whom he harmed along the way. Mr. Taylor’s conviction and sentence is a reflection of my office’s commitment to aggressive prosecution of those who steal identities to defraud both public and private victims.”
Three letter carriers -- Jordyn Merriewether, Jonathan Brooks, and Alexandra Thomas -- pleaded guilty to felony theft of mail matter in the case, according to authorities.
More information about their role is expected to be revealed soon.