SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (FOX 2) - Two Metro Detroit rappers have been charged with stealing more than $5 million from the United States IRS in an elaborate tax scheme where the women claimed withholdings and refunds of more than $13.6 million from 2013 to 2017.
Sameerah Marrel of Detroit and Noelle Brown of Romulus were both charged with aggravated identity theft, false claims, and conspiracy in an IRS complaint that was unsealed this week.
The duo performed as the female rap group "Deuces Wild" under stage names Creme (Marrel) and Brown.
The special agent investigating the case, Tyler Goodnight, said that information from IRS's Scheme Development Center identified multiple false and fraudulent tax returns for estates and trusts set up under businesses filed between 2013 and 2017. Goodnight also said the women were involved in schemes to file tax returns for trusts using other people's identities without their consent and would get other people involved and then have those people pay the women from the refunds issued.
In those returns, Goodnight said they claimed the IRS had withheld large amounts of income tax from the trusts filing the returns.
All told, Goodnight said they falsely reported withholdings and claimed refunds of more than $13.6 million and that the IRS had paid out $5,539,049 to the women before recognizing the fraud.
122 returns filed
According to the complaint, a total of 122 returns were all filed and were able to be linked together as part of a common scheme. Goodnight wrote that there were common pieces of information including the same payer on 1099 forms and the same return preparers on some trust returns.
Of the 122 returns, 106 were prepared and filed by paper and mailed to the IRS - 69 from Michigan and 13 from Georgia. 16 of the 122 returns were filed electronically from January 2015 to March 2016 - all from four different IP addresses, two of which were connected to Marrel.
Additionally, the payout from 16 electronically filed false returns requested refunds of almost $900,000 - of which $299,000 was paid out in six refund checks. Those went to accounts opened by Marrel and Goodnight said most of the funds were either withdrawn or immediately spent.
Two checks were issued to two businesses - Lucid Communications and Clean Sweep Properties - both for more than $60,000 each. The woman who deposited those checks was Marrel, Goodnight said, which he confirmed in reviewing surveillance video of the deposits.
Goodnight said she also deposited a refund check made out to '"For Weaves Only Distributors Trust" for more than $31,000 and another for $57,000 to Lucid Communications.
Of the 106 that were filed in paper form, 20 trust tax refund checks went into accounts opened by Marrel, for a total of $1.3 million between Dec. 29, 2014 and Sept. 4, 2017.
Identity theft charges
Goodnight said Marrel opened at least 29 bank accounts from 2014 to 2018:
- 14 of them had 25 fraudulent tax refund checks deposited
- 8 received money derived from some of the fraudulent refunds
- 1 was in the name of a person claiming to be a victim of identity theft with the initials AK. This person's name is also connected to five different fraudulent trust returns
The returns filed under AK's name requested almost $2.5 million in refunds, which the IRS paid out $462,601. The funds were deposited into an account in AK's but that woman said she did not open the account.
Goodnight said money was sent from the account in AK's name to Marrel and 'JP', including more than $17,000 that was made out to LJB Automotive, which is a company registered to Marrel in the state of Michigan.
So who is JP? In May 2018, agents investigated JP, who said she was a victim of ID theft as well and said she didn't know Marrel and didn't give her permission to set up trusts or file tax returns in her name.
An Ohio license issued in JP's name had a picture of Marrel. Authorities said Marrel used the identification to open accounts, rent apartments, open a UPS Box, and purchase expensive items, including jewelry and watches.
A total of eight fraudulent tax refunds were deposited into accounts with JP's name - totaling $1,066,332.
Additionally, 14 other trust tax returns using the name JP were set up and requested $1.6 million refunds from 2016 to 2017. That money was never paid.
The scheme evolves
In September 2018, Goodnight and another agent interviewed a woman identified as CH after her name landed on a trust tax return that requested more than $51,000.
CH said she has been best friends with Brown since she was 13 and said Brown and Marrel were close friends.
She told the IRS that in 2017, Brown told her that Marrel knew how to apply for grants and was willing to help her apply for a business grant. CH gave her name, SSN, and DOB to Brown to give to Marrel.
In return, she said Marrel told her that her name would be "put into a pot and the winner would get the grant money." She said she was not told how much the grant would be or how much she would have to pay Marrel.
CH later received a check from the IRS for more than $51,000 with her name on it. She said Brown instructed her to get a cashier's check for $28,975 payable to Marrel's business, Clean Sleep Properties.
A tax return signed with her name was shown to her, but she said she didn't sign it and whoever did, spelled her name wrong. She also told the IRS if she had known a tax return would be filed, she wouldn't agree to the plan. She said she trusted Brown and knew she had applied for a grant in the past. CH questioned both women about paying taxes on the funds and said they both told her shouldn't owe anything on the money.
CH also told the IRS that Brown referred other people to Marrel and would get a portion of the money.
A fourth person, a man identified as LC, told the IRS he met Brown through a mutual friend and he was introduced to Marrel. LC said he met her once but primarily dealt with Brown, who told him that Marrel worked for the IRS and "knew all the loopholes and had an opportunity to get LC some money."
In a group phone call, the women explained they needed his name and address but didn't need his date of birth or SSN. He provided his and his wife's name and addresses but didn't sign anything. He told the IRS during the investigation that he was told to expect a check between $50,000 and $100,000 and he would get to keep $15,000.
In July 2017, the IRS received two tax returns linked to the man and his wife, both requested refunds of $78,516. Brown told LC he couldn't deposit both checks into the same account so he opened another account and deposited the first check he received in this account.
Once the check cleared, he was told to get a cashier's check for $47,858 and give it to Brown
One month later, the other chek, for the same amount was sent to him and he deposited it. He then was told to get a cashier's check for $47,905 made out to Luxley Luxury Group LLC. That check was later signed by Marrel.
In total, Brown was linked to at least 10 fraudulent tax returns totaling more than $2 million, some of which was frozen by banks and is in the process of being sent back to the IRS.
The women both face up to ten years in federal prison, if convicted.