The U.S. attorney's office said in a release John M. Berry Jr. of Dunkirk, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Buffalo to making a false claim against the United States. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango, who is handling the case, said between Sept. 3, 2008, and March 25, 2009, Berry filed 122 false income tax returns for the tax years 2007 and 2008 with the IRS.
During that time, Berry obtained the personal and identifying information for 122 recently deceased individuals and then used that information to file federal tax returns. The defendant created fraudulent income and withholding information for the dead taxpayers and filed the returns electronically, Mango said.
The 122 tax returns sought refunds totaling $217,520 from the IRS, of which the defendant received $92,462.12. The refunds were deposited directly into Berry's bank account, Mango said.
"This case should serve as a warning that our office, working with our law enforcement partners, will not tolerate attempts to either steal the identities of individuals, or the money of the taxpayers of this country," U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. "That this defendant would rob the identities of deceased individuals is concerning, and could have brought additional grief and pain for their loved ones."
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 26.