City man accused of filing false tax returns for deceased persons

New York State Depart-ment of Taxation and Finance Commissioner Thomas H. Mattox announced that a Dunkirk man under investigation for tax fraud was arrested Monday for filing fraudulent income tax returns – in the names of deceased individuals.

John Berry, 42, was charged with first-degree offering a false instrument, a class E felony, and fourth-degree attempted grand larceny, a class A misdemeanor. He was arraigned in Dunkirk City Court before the Hon. Walter Drag. He was released on his own recognizance. His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 15.

The Tax Department’s investigation allegedly found a number of the withholding statements (W-2s) used fraudulently by Berry claimed wages from a not-for-profit entity located in Chautauqua County. The investigation also allegedly revealed that the persons listed on the W-2s were dead.

Berry filed 40 New York state income tax returns between 2008 and 2009 claiming fraudulent refunds of $25,194.

Working with the Internal Revenue Service, the department also learned that, for the same years of 2008 and 2009, Berry sought $200,000 in illegal refunds by filing 122 federal returns, again using the social security numbers of dead people. Berry has pleaded guilty to the charges brought by the IRS and is expected to be sentenced on those charges in October.

“This is a case in which the state, leveraging information from the federal government, was able to identify multiple instances of stolen identity, and bring them to an end,” said Commissioner Mattox. “It appears the defendant clearly set out to steal on a regular basis from the state, and by doing so, cheat all the taxpayers of New York who pay their fair share. Such criminal activity won’t be tolerated.”

The arrest was made and the case investigated by the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) of the New York State Tax Department. In addition, a CID officer has been appointed as the Special Assistant District Attorney to prosecute the case. CID is comprised of attorneys, criminal investigators and auditors tasked with uncovering violations of the State Tax Law.

In New York State, 96 percent of taxes are paid by businesses and individuals who voluntarily meet their tax responsibilities. The remaining 4 percent is collected through the Tax Department’s audit, collections and criminal investigations programs. Through its enforcement programs, the Department ensures fair tax administration for all New Yorkers.

A criminal complaint is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.