Stealing as a Full-time Occupation

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Computer security concept

Katrina Pierce, a South Side Chicago woman, could very well fall into the “stealing as a full-time occupation” category. She has been charged for obtaining dozens of death certificates for young Chicago murder victims, posing as their relative. Pierce purportedly used the stolen identities of these unfortunate children to collect not only thousands of dollars in tax refunds, but also COVID-19 stimulus payments.

Before we get to today’s fraud scheme, it’s important to provide some history about Pierce. According to court records, she was sentenced in 2012 to 11 years behind bars for using stolen identities and other fake documents to steal more than $200,000 in federal tax refunds and state child care benefits.

Prosecutors called her a “career con artist” who started her life of crime by shoplifting as a teenager, then tried her hand at forgery, food stamp fraud, and identity theft. (Sounds like she dabbled in anything that would provide monetary gain.) Note that Pierce was still considered on supervised release when she was arrested on the new charges. (I’m guessing that she is in violation of the terms of her release.) 

Fast-forward to current charges which were made based on an employee at the Cook County Vital Records Bureau. This government employee detected that Pierce had submitted requests for four death certificates in one day, claiming to be the sister of each of the deceased, even though last names were different. It turns out that in 2019 alone, Pierce requested a total of 37 death certificates and was successful in obtaining 26 of them. (I’m sad to say that these homicide victims ranged in age between 2 and 22 years old.)

IRS agents visited the address that Pierce listed in her applications. In a trash can behind the building, agents found discarded handwritten notes listing the names of deceased individuals and how they died. (She should have invested in a low-cost shredder.) 

Pierce allegedly used the death certificate info to qualify for earned income or child tax credits on fake tax returns that she filed under fictitious names and businesses. Apparently, she used that information to steal thousands of dollars in COVID-19 stimulus payments.

Investigators suspect that Pierce used multiple bank accounts under aliases to launder the stolen funds. She deposited nearly $84,000 in one of her bank accounts over a six-month period in 2020. (This is ironic because that amount is more than double the income claimed on her 2020 tax return.) 

It’s also ironic that Pierce listed her occupation as “quality assurance” on her income tax return. (Perhaps what was needed was more quality control as it looks like her alleged scam began to unravel at this point in the investigation.) While this woman is innocent until proven guilty, she may very well be looking at the end of her “Con” life.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Woman posed as relative of young Chicago homicide victims to collect tax refunds, COVID-19 stimulus payments, feds say,” published by Chicago Tribune on September 16, 2021.

A South Side woman has been hit with federal fraud charges alleging she obtained death certificates of dozens of young Chicago murder victims by claiming she was a relative and later used their stolen identities to collect thousands of dollars in tax refunds and COVID-19 stimulus payments.

Among the victims of the scam allegedly perpetrated by Katrina Pierce was Amari Brown, a 7-year-old boy fatally shot in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on July 4, 2015, according to a criminal complaint made public Thursday in U.S. District Court charging Pierce with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

 

 

 

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.