Dunkirk man pleads guilty to filing taxes for 120+ dead people

BUFFALO – A Dunkirk man has confessed to filing federal tax returns on behalf of several deceased people.

John Berry Jr., 42, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara 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 Mango, who is handling the case, stated that between Sept. 3, 2008 and March 25, 2009, Berry filed 122 false income tax returns for the tax years 2007 and 2008 with the Internal Revenue Service. 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 on behalf of the deceased. He created fraudulent income and withholding information for the deceased and filed the returns electronically.

The 122 tax returns sought refunds totaling $217,520 from the IRS, of which Berry received $92,462.

“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,” said U.S. Attorney William 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.”

The plea is the culmination of an investigation on the part of special agents of the IRS’ Criminal Investigations division.

Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 26 at 1 p.m.