Chicago woman accused of posing as murder victims' relative to get tax refunds, stimulus payments

7-year-old Amari Brown, who was fatally shot in Humboldt Park in 2015, named as one of her alleged victims

Eric Horng Image
Friday, September 17, 2021
Chicago woman accused in fraud scheme targeting murder victims
At a home Katrina Pierce listed as a return address, investigators found handwritten notes listing her alleged victims and how they were murdered.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Chicago woman is accused of stealing the identities of the relatives of murder victims, including young children, allegedly with the goal of getting fraudulent tax return money and COVID stimulus payments.

According to the feds, a 7-year-old boy who was shot and killed in Humboldt Park in 2015 is one of the alleged victims. For the family of Amari Brown, it's reopened old wounds.

"Why would someone want to do this?" said Andrina Hailey, Amari's aunt. "It's very sensitive to us, and we just think it's disgusting."

Amari is among dozens of young Chicago murder victims whose identities were allegedly stolen by a South Side woman.

In a federal complaint, authorities say Katrina Pierce used those stolen identities to fraudulently collect thousands of dollars in tax refunds and COVID-19 relief funds and stimulus payments.

Authorities say Pierce stole those identities by improperly obtaining death records. She allegedly targeted younger shooting victims, between the ages of 2 and 22, because of their clean credit history.

In the case of Amari, authorities say Pierce falsely claimed him as a dependent on a tax return, allowing her to collect a refund of more than $4,400.

"It's wrong," Hailey said. "It's morally wrong. It's just wrong."

Authorities say Pierce stole her victims' information from county death records by falsely claiming to be a relative on request forms, a felony in itself.

Officials were tipped off after discovering she made several requests for different people in a single day.

At a home she listed as a return address, investigators found handwritten notes listing her victims and how they were murdered. But why didn't the IRS immediately know she was using information from dead people?

"Identity theft can be very tricky, very difficult for authorities to detect because the systems simply aren't in place, at least not across the entire federal bureaucracy or state bureaucracy to proactively look for instances of identity theft," ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer said.

Officials said Pierce has about a dozen previous convictions for fraud or theft and was released a few years ago after serving time in federal prison.