The former Hapeville city councilwoman currently in prison for stealing more than $100,000 from a dying relative is now facing additional theft charges. A Fulton County grand jury has indicted Ruth Barr on three felony charges for filing allegedly fraudulent income tax returns for clients.
Barr had operated a tax preparing business in south Fulton County for decades. The Georgia Department of Revenue launched an investigation into Barr in 2016 after an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 uncovered a pattern showing she preyed on her tax clients, either by getting them to loan her money or by preparing returns that led to audits and penalties by the IRS.
AJC Watchdog: Hapeville confronts fallout from conviction
RELATED: Ruth Barr arrested in tax fraud case
“She had a large client base, so hundreds of clients would come in every year and she was getting back huge refunds that would cost the state millions of dollars over the time she was in business,” Josh Waites, with the DOR, told Channel 2 Action News. “This was one of the biggest cases we’ve done as far as tax preparation businesses go.”
“She would get people refunds, but she wasn’t trying to get the biggest refund ever, but she worked in volume, so those numbers add up quickly,” Waites said.
Barr, 63, could have potentially been charged with hundreds of felonies for all the customers she looped into her scheme, according to Waites. Instead, prosecutors charged her with computer theft, false statements and criminal attempt to commit a theft. They then turned their focus to helping taxpayers pay back the money they didn’t deserve.
“We’ve helped them with the penalties and interest and the payment plans as well to make it affordable to get that money back,” Waites said.
The investigations into Barr’s actions date back nearly three years and have spanned Fulton and Gwinnett counties, as well as the state revenue department.
One day after being elected to the Hapeville City Council on Nov. 3, 2015, Barr was indicted by a Gwinnett County grand jury for theft.
According to investigators, Barr’s sister and brother-in-law, Helen and David Bass, gave her more than $109,000 in retirement funds while he was sick in the hospital in 2013. Barr told the couple she would use the money to create an IRA account, the proceeds of which the Basses would use to buy a new home.
Instead, Barr deposited the money into her personal business checking account and later wrote checks to herself. Prosecutors said she spent all of the money in less than 30 days.
In January 2017, state revenue agents arrested Barr and, in April of that year, she was convicted of theft in a Gwinnett courtroom and sentenced to 20 years, including five to serve in prison.
Barr is currently serving time at the Whitworth Women’s Facility in Hartwell, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.