Katrina Pierce, a 50-year-old woman from Chicago, has been accused of stealing the identities of young murder victims in a scheme to collect thousands of dollars in tax refunds and Covid-19 stimulus checks.
The con artist’s fraud campaign was first discovered in 2019 by the Cook County, Chicago, Vital Records Bureau, when they discovered that Katrina Pierce had obtained 26 death certificates from their office.
According to court documents, Pierce had asked for the access of 37 different death certificates, posing as their family members. Investigators later found that the decedents, aged from 2-years-old to to 22-years-old, were all homicide victims from the south side of Chicago.
The director of the Vital Records Bureau believed that she targeted younger people because they would be less likely to have credit history records. They suspected that she probably tried to open credit accounts using their identities.
According the FBI, investigators said that Amari Brown, a 7-year-old who was shot in killed in Humbolt Park, Chicago, in 2015, was one of Katrina Pierce’s stolen identities.
“Why would someone want to do this?” said Amari Brown’s aunt Andrina Hailey. “It’s very sensitive to us, and we just think it’s disgusting.”
Pierce allegedly claimed Amari Brown as a dependent on tax forms, allowing her to collect an extra $4,400 due to the rules for pandemic stimulus checks. Pierce claimed that she was entitled to a Child Tax Credit and an Earned Income Tax Credit for the boy who was shot and killed on the sidewalk in 2015.
“It’s wrong,” Hailey said. “It’s morally wrong. It’s just wrong.”
Tax complaints also found inconsistencies in her submitted forms, such as “(W)hen Pierce requested (Amari Brown)’s death certificate in 2019, she claimed that she was A.B.’s aunt, contrary to the above tax return in which she claimed that A.B. was her son.”
The authorities said that they found a list of all of the young homicide victims and how they died at a Winchester Avenue, West Englewood neighborhood address listed as her permanent address. Looking in garbage cans, they found discarded handwritten notes that listed their names, dates of birth, and cause of death, such as “shot” or “stabbed.”
According to court documents, Pierce had sent requests for death certificates under the names “Tony Scott” and “Tammy Jones,” who had listed their places of work as “Pierce Auto” and “Pierce Inc.,” respectively. Another tax return submitted for a name on the list had used the name “Rajona Pierce,” an alias that she later admitted to have used in a previous scheme.
Katrina Pierce had also attempted to steal the identity of a man in St. Louis, who had been shot and killed in a backyard in 2013. A form she submitted in his name claimed a tax refund of nearly $2,000.
Katrina’s niece, who worked with authorities, said that Katrina Pierce had attempted to pull off a tax fraud scheme before, and that she became wise to the crime when she kept receiving mail in other people’s names. Katrina Pierce was arrested in 2011 for tax fraud, and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. She served nine of the those years, and was then released in 2019.
In the previous case, Katrina Pierce had collected over $146,000 from false claims as part of an Illinois Department of Human Services program that provided money to child care providers. She had faked the identity of over 13 child care providers, as well as cheating $3,800 in food stamp benefits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and around $21,000 from tax returns.
Katrina Pierce is due back in court for her latest stimulus checks scheme this upcoming Tuesday.