Chicago Woman Who Cashed Her Deceased Grandmother’s Pension Checks Convicted on Federal Fraud and Tax Charges

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

CHICAGO — A federal jury has convicted a Chicago woman on fraud and tax offenses for cashing her deceased grandmother’s pension checks and preparing false tax returns.

EUNICE SALLEY, also known as “Eunice Salley Dobyns,” “Oya Awanata-Bey,” and “Oya Awanata,” 37, was found guilty on all 29 counts against her, including pension fraud, embezzlement, mail fraud, and tax charges.  The jury returned the verdicts Friday after a four-day trial in U.S. District Court in Chicago.  U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr., set sentencing for July 21, 2022.

The conviction was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Stuart M. Goldberg, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division; Justin Campbell, Special Agent-in-Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation in Chicago; and Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI.  The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas of the Northern District of Illinois, and Assistant Chief Andrew Kameros of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

According to evidence presented at trial, Salley worked as a paid tax return preparer.  In 2016 and 2017, Salley prepared and filed with the IRS 22 false individual income tax returns on behalf of clients.  The returns, which sought more than $1 million in false refunds, contained fictitious wages and withholdings, as well as false medical, charitable, and employment-related expenses.  Salley demanded that many of her clients pay her up to 50% of the refund, in addition to her regular preparation fee.

Evidence regarding the pension fraud revealed that Salley’s grandmother died in 2009 after having worked for American Can Co.  After her death, the grandmother’s monthly pension checks continued to be delivered to the residence where Salley continued to reside.  From January 2013 to December 2017, 33 pension checks, totaling $14,131, were issued to the grandmother and deposited into one of six bank accounts opened and controlled by Salley.  On several occasions during that time Salley notarized and submitted to the pension plan administrator affidavits under her grandmother’s name, fraudulently affirming that the grandmother was alive.  Salley did not report approximately $5,000 in income she received in 2017 from the pension checks that she embezzled.