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John M. Berry Jr. had a unique way of cheating the federal government – he filed false tax returns on behalf of dead people.

And not just a few.

Over a seven-month period, the Dunkirk man filed 122 federal income tax returns on behalf of dead people.

He also received $92,462 in fraudulent refunds.

Berry, 42, will have to repay that money as part of a plea deal today that could send him to prison for up to 46 months.

“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. said in a statement.

Berry admitted his crime – he pleaded guilty to making a false claim against the government – during an appearance before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango said Berry filed the fake returns in 2008 and 2009 after obtaining personal identifying information for the 122 recently deceased individuals.

He also made up fraudulent income and withholding information for the deceased before electronically filing the returns with the Internal Revenue Service.

“He has to take steps to make amends and that means restitution," said Tracy Hayes, the Federal Public Defender representing Berry.

Berry’s plea is the result of an investigation by the Criminal Investigations unit of the IRS.

He will be sentenced in August.

email: pfairbanks@buffnews.com