A Chicago woman is facing federal fraud charges after posing as the relative of young gun violence victims. In one case, she posed as the relative of a 7-year-old boy who was fatally shot in 2015. The 50-year-old woman posed as the boy’s aunt when she attempted to acquire the boy’s death certificate in 2019 and then filed a fraudulent tax return in the dead boy’s name.
The same defendant was given an 11-year sentence on similar charges of aggravated identity theft and wire fraud. The woman was on supervised release when she was arrested for this crime, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors described the woman as a career con-artist who used her considerable innate abilities to steal from others as opposed to doing something useful to society. The fraud was discovered by an employee at Cook County Vital Records after he noticed that the same woman put in a request for four death certificates on the same day. The woman claimed to be the sister of each of the deceased, but each deceased individual had a different name. A check of the records showed that the woman had placed requests for 37 death certificates all in 2019 alone. Each of the individuals whose birth certificates she requested were recent homicide victims—mostly children. She was able to recover earned income and child tax credits on the deceased children, earning a passive income from her Southside home. The woman was also able to recover several COVID stimulus checks while those were still being issued.
Federal Fraud Charges and Sentencing Guidelines
The problem for this defendant is that she has a prior record for committing the same kind of fraud. It is unlikely that the court will find cause to give her a lenient sentence after she spent 11 years in prison on identical charges and then, while on probation, picked up where she left off. Each individual count of attempting to obtain the death certificate of someone to whom she was not related can be charged separately. Since there are 37 death certificates she attempted to acquire by forging personal information, that is 37 counts of fraud all of which have a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
In some cases, it is possible to reduce the overall counts of fraud in accord with the overall amount of money stolen. Robbery, theft, and related charges are generally charged in accord with the value of the goods. Fraud, however, is not. In a case like this, a defense attorney could stipulate that his client committed a specific crime, but discuss whether or not it makes sense to give someone a 150-year sentence when they only stole $50,000 or so.
It will, however, be more difficult to advocate for a defendant who is on probation for the same crime they are accused of. The woman is likely going back to jail with an even longer sentence than the one she served the first time she was caught.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you are facing charges related to fraud, forgery, or illegally obtaining government benefits, call Chicago criminal defense attorney David L. Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 to schedule an appointment and begin discussing your options.