'Tax guy Chris', former Allen Park business man, sentenced in fraud scheme

The former Allen Park building where Chris Neibel ran his business.

Christopher Niebel, known as "Tax guy Chris" in Allen Park, was sentenced to five years in prison, plus three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $512,000 in restitution for being part of a pandemic unemployment insurance fraud scheme.

Niebel also worked seasonally as a manager for Party City, a retail chain selling party supplies. Through his employment at Party City, Niebel had access to the files of individuals who had worked or applied to work at the company. 

These files included the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s I-9 employment verification forms of Party City employees and applicants, in which the applicants documented their eligibility for employment in the United States. In approximately 2019, Niebel stole a number of these I-9 forms from Party City, which contained a substantial volume of personal identifying information of the applicants (including names, social security numbers, and dates of birth). 

Niebel filed these documents away for his future use. Once pandemic unemployment assistance funds became available, Niebel used the PII he had appropriated from Party City in a scheme to defraud the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency by submitting fictitious claims for those benefits. Specifically, Niebel submitted electronic applications seeking pandemic unemployment benefits using the personal identifying information of applicants for jobs with Party City, without the authorization, approval, or knowledge of those individuals.

Niebel pleaded guilty in February to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, according to US Attorney Dawn Ison, from the Eastern District of Michigan. 

Niebel opened numerous bank accounts in Michigan in order to capture the PUA funds, which were wired to those accounts.