Tax Preparer Admits to Pandemic Unemployment Insurance Fraud Scheme (Detroit News)

Tax Preparer Admits to Pandemic Unemployment Insurance Fraud Scheme

  Wednesday, February 21st, 2024 Source: Detroit News

Christopher Niebel, a 45-year-old from Allen Park, known as "Tax Guy Chris," admitted to charges of fraud and identity theft linked to an insurance fraud scheme. Working as a tax preparer and a seasonal manager at Party City, Niebel exploited his position to access and steal personal information from employees and applicants. He used this information to submit fraudulent claims for pandemic unemployment assistance, accumulating nearly half a million dollars in false claims.

Niebel’s method involved using the stolen identities to file for benefits without the victims’ knowledge or consent, purposely targeting individuals outside of Michigan to reduce the risk of detection. The fraudulently obtained funds, amounting to approximately $512,000, were spent on personal luxuries including gambling, lottery tickets, and various living expenses. This case highlights the misuse of pandemic relief efforts intended to aid Michigan’s workforce during a time of unprecedented need.

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency has condemned Niebel’s actions, emphasizing the impact on genuine beneficiaries during the early stages of the pandemic. Niebel pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, facing up to 20 years in prison for the former and a mandatory two-year sentence for the latter. His sentencing is scheduled for May 21.

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