A federal grand jury in Columbus charged a former assistant prosecutor for Athens County last week with eight charges relating to fraudulent tax claims and theft of government money, according to a news release from Benjamin C. Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.

Michael (aka Mickey) A. Prisley, 52, of Columbus, and Tawnya Writesel, 38, also of Columbus, were both charged with eight counts of fraudulent tax claims and theft of government money in an indictment returned last Thursday and unsealed today (Monday).

Prisley and Writesel, along with others, allegedly conspired to submit false claims for income tax refunds. According to court documents, they filed approximately 167 false and fictitious tax returns in order to obtain “fraudulent refunds” totaling roughly $900,000, according to Glassman’s release.

Prisley was a long-time local assistant prosecutor and was serving in that capacity at the end of 2013, according to a search of The Athens NEWS’ online records. In an article the following year, Prisley is mentioned as a defense attorney in a criminal case in Athens County. He apparently had two stints as assistant prosecutor, one of them earlier in the 2000s.

According to the news release, Writesel allegedly would obtain the identification information of real people, including their Social Security numbers, who were then falsely claimed as dependents.

“Prisley allegedly received the tax-refund checks into his bank accounts and then withdrew cash in order to pay his co-conspirators their shares,” U.S. Attorney Glassman said in the release. “He received drugs and controlled substances in exchange for cashing the refund checks.”

Authorities also allege that Prisley provided others with false power of attorney forms so that his co-conspirators could “cash fraudulently obtained tax refund checks without the listed taxpayer’s knowledge,” according to the release.

“It is unfortunate that someone who was trusted to prosecute criminals is now on the other side of the table facing his own criminal allegations,” Ryan L. Korner, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office, said in the release.

According to Prisley’s LinkedIn page, he is currently, or most recently was, a criminal defense/trial attorney with Brehm and Associates LPA in Columbus.  He also apparently formerly worked at the Columbus City Prosecutor’s Office, according to that LinkedIn page.

Co-defendants Amy K. France and Denard T. Nelson were also charged in relation to this case, the release reads. France pleaded guilty in June 2016 to one count of conspiracy to submit false claims and one count of identity theft, and was sentenced last January to 37 months in prison. France was additionally ordered to pay nearly $467,000 in restitution, the release reads.

Nelson pleaded guilty in September 2015 to one count of identity theft, and was sentenced in May 2016 to five years of probation. He also was ordered to pay more than $87,000 in restitution.

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