Chicago woman impersonates a relative of homicide victims for a tax refund: the federal government


A “career con artist” in Chicago has stolen the identities of young homicide victims to raise thousands of dollars in tax refunds and COVID-19 stimulus payments, according to federal prosecutors.

Katrina Pierce, 50, was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in a 34-page complaint made public Thursday.

Prosecutors say his fraud scheme was first discovered in late 2019 by the Cook County Vital Records Bureau, which noticed Pierce requested four death certificates in one day while claiming to be each victim’s sister, well that they have different surnames.

A subsequent record check found Pierce requested 37 death certificates in 2019, obtaining at least 26 of them, according to the complaint.

“The director then searched the backgrounds of the deceased and discovered that they were all homicide victims, aged between ages 2 and 22, from south and west Chicago,” the complaint states.

The manager believed Pierce had targeted her victims because they would be less likely to have credit histories and she may have tried to open accounts using their identity, prosecutors said.

Antonio Brown (right) is comforted during a prayer vigil for his son, Amari Brown, 7, who was shot and killed in Chicago in 2015.
EUTERS / Jim Young

Amari Brown, a 7-year-old boy from Chicago who was shot dead in 2015, was reportedly among Pierce’s victims. She falsely claimed she was his aunt when getting her death certificate in 2019, then used the stolen information to file a fraudulent tax return which resulted in a refund check for $ 4,407 from the ‘IRS, prosecutors said.

“Why would anyone want to do this?” »Amari’s aunt, Andrina Hailey, told WLS-TV, accusing Pierce of reopening the family wounds. “It’s very sensitive to us, and we just think it’s disgusting.”

IRS agents went to the return address Pierce provided in his January 2020 requests and found handwritten notes listing the names of those who died as well as how they died, including “gunshot” , ” where are you ” .

Investigators said Pierce also sought personal information about people who died in St. Louis, including a homicide victim, to fraudulently obtain COVID-19 stimulus payments and a prepaid debit card in his name.

Antonio Brown, father of Amari Brown, is seen near a sign honoring his son after his death in 2015.
Antonio Brown, father of Amari Brown, is seen near a memorial in honor of his son in 2015.
(AP Photo / Christian K. Lee

Prosecutors said Pierce had multiple bank accounts using different names to hide his scheme. She deposited nearly $ 84,000 into one of the accounts over a six-month period last year ending in December – more than double the amount of her total income reported on her tax return, according to the complaint.

Pierce was arrested on Tuesday and appeared before a judge, who ordered her detention pending trial, according to court records cited by the Chicago Tribune. Its preliminary hearing is set for Tuesday.

In 2012, Pierce was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison for using stolen identities and other false documents to recover more than $ 200,000 in federal tax refunds and child care allowances, reported the newspaper.

Prosecutors at the time called her a “career crook” who graduated in shoplifting as a teenager before launching counterfeit, food stamp and theft programs. identity.

“Flying was [her] full-time occupation and she was good at it, ”prosecutors reportedly wrote in her earlier memo on the sentence. Pierce was still on probation when she was arrested, court records show. His court-appointed lawyer could not be reached for comment, the Tribune reported.

Investigators found handwritten notes from Pierce listing his victims and how they were murdered.
Investigators found handwritten notes from Pierce listing his victims and how they were murdered.

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