A police officer with Bradenton's gang unit turned an easy drug arrest into what may be a major white collar crime arrest involving tax fraud and residents of a local assisted living facility.
Det. B. Pieper from the police department's gang unit put together the case by paying close attention during a routine drug bust.
Nikki Brydson, a 40-year-old cafeteria worker at Ballard Elementary, was arrested on the first day of school and charged with scheming to defraud. Her arrest was the culmination of months of work that began with a simple drug bust last spring.
Pieper was one of several detectives watching traffic coming to and from a house where police suspected drugs were sold. He said he and his partner watched a car leave the house and then run a stop sign. When they pulled over the car Brydson was in the passenger seat with a laptop and a bag of marijuana on her lap.
Brydson quickly closed the laptop, which made Pieper suspicious. When he searched her purse, he said he found several TurboTax debit cards with different names on them. He also noticed a 60-step instruction sheet on how to perform tax fraud through TurboTax.
The detectives brought Brydson back to the department where they questioned her about the tax computer, the debit cards and the instruction sheet. She also had a list of names, all residents from Assisted Living Facility.
Pieper said that Brydson told him another woman asked for her help in the scam. While police believe another person may have been involved, Pieper said Brydson was definitely a partner in the crimes and that she had even filed a tax return in her own mother's name — keeping the refund for herself.
Pieper tracked down the first few names on the list to Langdon Hall and discovered that the managers had fired two people who were suspected of stealing personal information.
Pieper talked to the residents and in some cases their family members. One woman from Boston called Pieper and told him she had been wondering why her father never got his tax refund.
Pieper put together enough information to arrest Brydson last month and has turned over his findings to the state attorney's office where he said the agency can issue subpoenas to get a better idea of just how much money Brydson and her group was able to get in tax refunds.
Pieper said the case may go about $20,000.