The Cook County Bureau of Vital Records first became suspicious of Katrina Pierce in October of 2019, when a staffer downloaded electronic applications for death certificates submitted by currency exchanges within one day. It turned out that Pierce had filed to obtain 37 death certificates, and had succeeded in getting at least 26. All were homicide victims ranging in age from 2 to 22 who had been killed in 2019 on the Chicago’s South and West sides. A strange fascination with death? No. But it does gets weirder.
In January 2020, IRS agents went to the mailing address listed on the death certificate requests, which turned out to be a residential two-flat. They went to the garbage cans out back and took four trash bags where they found discarded handwritten notes about all different people who had died – with names, dates of birth, and other information, and with manners of death such as “shot,” “stabbed,” or “fall” scribbled in the margins. It turns out, Pierce was using the identities of homicide victims in St. Louis to file false tax returns in both 2020 and 2021 to receive false COVID stimulus checks and prepaid debit cards. Pierce pretended she was related to each of the victims, though she ultimately found it difficult to keep her stories straight, and used personal details from the certificates to file for tax refunds and pandemic stimulus payments.
On February 12, 2023, Pierce was found guilty stolen identities and income fraud and sentenced to five years in prison. But we will see Pierce again. It turns out that Pierce is a lifelong fraudster having been found guilty of twelve other cases with similar schemes of stolen identities and government programs. . At the time the fraud began, Pierce was still on supervised release after serving an 11-year federal sentence for a $200,000 income tax scheme using stolen identities. Stealing is a full-time occupation for Pierce.
Great job by the Internal Revenue Service with this investigation. Be ready to see Pierce again when this five year sentence comes to an end!
Today’s Fraud Of The Day is based on article “Woman Used Identities of Dead People to Defraud U.S., Officials Say” published by New York Times on February 12, 2023
A Chicago woman was sentenced to just over five years in prison after fraudulently obtaining the identities of dozens of dead people, from infants to adults, and using the information to steal more than $45,000 of government funds, according to prosecutors and court records.
The woman, Katrina Pierce, acquired more than 36 death certificates for murder victims in Illinois — ranging from 2 to 22 years old — from 2019 to 2021 by pretending to be related to them, according to court records. She then used personal details, such as dates of birth and Social Security numbers, gleaned from the documents to file for tax refunds and pandemic stimulus payments.